Social Security Disability Resource Center

Overview | How to Qualify | Applications
Requirements | How long it takes | Back Pay
Mental Disability | What is a disability? | Tips
SSI Benefits | How to Win | Disability Awards
Hearings | Appeals | List of Disabling Conditions

Is the Medical Criteria to Get Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits hard?

The Social Security disability and SSI programs are not partial disability benefit or temporary disability benefit programs. By contrast, both are total disability programs. This essentially means that the benefits provided by each program is not meant for individuals who have impairments or conditions that are likely to improve to the extent that they are able to return to work in less than twelve months (for example, simple fractures).

Additionally, unlike other disability programs such as workers compensation or VA benefits, the Social Security Administration does not allow percentage disability benefits (that are payable based on a percentage of infirmity and which may be payable even if a person is working a full time job).

Under SSA guidelines and regulations, a person's case must conform to a relatively high standard; they must prove that their disabling condition precludes the performance of not only their past job or jobs, but also any other type of job in the general economy for which their age, job skills, and education might otherwise qualify them.

Social Security sets rigorous disability medical criteria to address the severity of a person’s disabling condition. SSA disability examiners make their disability medical determinations with a disability guidebook (the blue book, titled “Disability Evaluation under Social Security”) that contains impairment listings for all body systems. If a disability applicant meets or equals the severity listing criteria of an impairment listing and they are not performing substantial work activity, they may be approved for disability benefits.

Unfortunately, most individuals are not able to meet or even medically equal an impairment listing. If they do not satisfy the listing criteria of a condition in the blue book (the social security list of impairments), they have to undergo a sequential evaluation process that begins with a medically determinable impairment, but also includes:

A) Documentation as to the severity of the impairment,

B) An evaluation of the limitations imposed by the impairment,

C) A determination of residual functional capacity (what the applicant is able to do in spite of their disability)


D) An evaluation of their ability to perform any of their past work when their residual functional capacity is considered.

If the applicant cannot meet the requirements of any of their past work, the disability examiner must determine if they are able to do any other suitable type of job ("suitable" meaning when their residual functional capacity, age, education, and job skills are considered). Social Security disability or SSI disability applicants are only approved for disability benefits if they are found unable to do any of their past work or any other work for which they might be qualified.

  • What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?

  • What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?

  • Which conditions will social security recognize as a disability?

  • Tips for getting Social Security Disability or SSI benefits approved

  • SSDRC Homepage:

    Social Security Disability and SSI Resource Center

    New and featured pages on

    Social Security Disability Requirements

    Social Security Disability list of impairments

    Social Security Disability Application

    Can you get disability for arthritis of the knee?

    How much income can you earn on Social Security disability?

    If you get denied at a disability hearing, can you win later?

    How much can an attorney charge for Social Security disability?

    Can you get approved for disability based on Ulcerative Colitis?

    The Most Basic questions about Getting Disability Benefits

    Social Security Disability SSI and whether or not you can work

    Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

    Social Security Disability SSI Questions and Answers

    More Social Security Disability SSI Questions and Answers

    Common Questions about Social Security Disability and SSI

    Winning Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits

    The SSI Disability Benefits Program

    Medical exams for disability claims

    Applying for Disability in various states

    Social Security Disability SSI and Doctors - Yours and Theirs

    Social Security Disability and SSI Claim Reviews

    Social Security Disability SSI System and Benefits for Children

    Denials, Appeals, and Getting a Disability Lawyer or Representative

    What you should know about Social Security Disability and SSI Denials

    Questions about Disability Lawyers and Hiring a Disability Attorney

    Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits

    FAQ on Disability Claim Representation

    Disability hearings before Judges

    Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers

    Various Types of Benefits including SSI, Mental, and Child benefits

    Social Security and SSI based on Mental Disability

    Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits for Children

    Disability Benefits through Social Security

    Filing for Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits

    Social Security Disability SSI: Medical Evidence and Records

    Filing your claim for disability benefits

    Eligibility for receiving disability benefits

    Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved

    FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions

    The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration

    Resources on this site

    Social Security Disability, SSI Terms and Definitions

    Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

    For Individuals living in North Carolina

    Applying for Disability in North Carolina

    North Carolina Disability Lawyer

    Related pages:

    When does social security consider you eligible for disability benefits?
    Who is eligible for SSI Disability?
    Disability Criteria - Eligibility For Social Security and SSI Disability
    Can I Be Eligible For SSI And Social Security Disability At The Same Time?
    Social Security Disability and SSI Mental Claims and Criteria
    Can you apply for disability on the basis of multiple health problems?
    What makes a person eligible to receive disability benefits?
    Inability to Work and Eligibility for Social Security Disability and SSI Benefits
    What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI?
    If You Are Currently Working Are You Eligible To Receive Social Security Disability Benefits?
    Will Being A Veteran Affect Your Eligibility And Chances For Social Security Disability?
    Are SSD and SSI disability cases decided the same way in terms of Eligibility?
    Is the Medical Criteria to Get Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits hard?
    Criteria for how Social Security Disability is Awarded
    Social Security Disability SSI Criteria and the Evaluation Process
    Social Security Disability, medium work, and your records
    SSD, SSI, and medium, light, and sedentary work
    What Does Social Security Consider To Be a Disability?
    Getting a Disability Lawyer in Pennsylvania
    If you apply for disability in Pennsylvania
    Will I qualify for disability Benefits in Pennsylvania?

    These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

    Filing for disability - How to file for SSD or SSI and the Information that is needed by Social Security
    How to Apply for Disability - What medical conditions can you apply and qualify for?
    Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?
    What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?
    How to Prove you are disabled and qualify to win disability benefits
    How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition or impairment?
    Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes to Qualify for it and receive it