Which conditions will social security recognize as a disability?
The simplest way to answer this question is in this fashion. To qualify for disability benefits in the Social Security Disability and SSI programs, you do not have to have a specific impairment from a specific list of impairments. Social Security will recognize any physical or mental medical condition as a disability as long as it is severe and meets the Social Security definition of disability, meaning that it must reduce a person's ability to work and earn a substantial and gainful income for a period of not less than one year.
Yes, the social security administration does have an impairment listing manual that cites the disability approval criteria for a certain number of physical and mental impairments. But, as extensive as this list of conditions is, far and away the vast majority of medical conditions are not listed in the manual, including:
However, though it may surprise some people to hear this, the inclusion or non-inclusion of an impairment in the "blue book", as its often called, is really somewhat irrelevant to the issue of qualifying for disability.
This is because the disability determination process focuses on--
A. the functional limitations a disability claimant has as a result of their condition or conditions and
B. whether or not those limitations exist to the extent that the claimant can be considered unable to return to their past work and also unable to perform suitable other work ("suitable" being influenced by the claimant's age, education, job skills and functional limitations).
In essence, nearly any medical condition can provide the basis for a disability approval as long as it is sufficiently limiting and as long as it sufficiently impairs a claimant's ability to work.
Of course, what this means for individuals filing an application for disability program benefits is this:
1. You must have solid medical record documentation. This includes documentation of when your condition began (to establish how far back social security will owe you back pay) and ongoing documentation of your condition to establish that you are currently disabled. Obviously, to supply this you must have ongoing medical treatment, (which can be difficult for many individuals due to health insurance coverage issues).
2. You should supply an accurate record of your work history, complete with job titles, dates of employment, and accurate descriptions of the work you performed on your various jobs. Accuracy is very important since the decision-making process takes into account your job skills, the transferability of those skills, and the exertional requirements of your past jobs.
If you do not supply accurate descriptions of your past work, you leave open the possibility that segments of your work history may be mis-categorized, and this may potentially affect the outcome of your case when vocational factors are brought under consideration.
About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.
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