How to file for disability, Filing for SSI
Disability Requirements, Disability Status
How long is the wait?, Disability Application
The Social Security List of Impairments
Qualifying for Disability, Mental Disability
Disability Lawyer Info, Disability Back Pay

How does Social Security determine if I am disabled or not?

The social security administration will determine a claimant's eligiblity to receive disability benefits in one of two ways (and both apply equally to the Social Security Disability or SSI disability program).

The First way - Satisfying the requirements of a listing

If a disability examiner or a disability judge (assuming the case is pending at the hearing level) examines the claimant's medical records and discovers fairly specific evidence regarding the claimant's condition or conditions, the examiner may potentially find that the claimant satisfies the approval criteria of a listed impairment.

What is a listed impairment? This is any mental or physical condition that is listed in the blue book. The blue book, sometimes referred to as the Social Security Disability list of impairments, contains a wide variety of medical conditions, both physical and mental, as well as the criteria that must be found in the claimant's medical records in order for the claimant to be approved on the basis of a listing (such as the listing for ADHD, or the listing for Asthma, or the listing for lupus).

Being approved for disability benefits on the basis of "meeting a listing" or "equaling a listing" (by "equaling", the social security administration means having a comparable level of severity even if the very specific details of the listing are not met) can be difficult. Listings tend to have very specific requirements and the truth is that a claimant's medical records will very often not contain enough detail. Additionally, most medical conditions are not actually included in the listing book, such as carpal tunnel syndrome for example.

The Second way - Being approved for disability on the basis of a medical vocational allowance

Fortunately, for those whose medical records will not be detailed enough to meet or equal a listing in the blue book, there is a second way of being approved for either Social Security Disability or SSI benefits. This way involves the five step sequential evaluation process used by the social security administration and it results in something known as a medical vocational allowance.

When a case is put through the sequential evaluation process (and this will happen unless it is fairly obvious that the claimant has a listing-level medical condition), the claimant's medical evidence will be used to determine how, and to what extent, they are functionally limited. The decision-maker, a disability examiner or a judge, will assess the severity of the claimant's conditions and then rate their functional limitations on either an RFC (residual functional capacity) form, or an MRFC (mental residual functional capacity) form. This rating will then be compared to the demands and requirements of the claimant's past work (social security will look at all relevant jobs within the past 15 years).

The goal, of course, is to see whether or not the claimant can go back to one of their past jobs. If the determination is made that they cannot return to a former job, the decision-maker will then attempt to determine whether or not the claimant can perform some type of other work. If this is also not possible, the claimant will be approved on the basis of a medical vocational allowance (which is referred to as such because the decision will involve both medical and work history information).

Essential Questions

What is the Social Security Disability SSI list of impairments?

Can you work while getting or applying for Disability?

How Often Does Social Security Approve Disability The First Time You Apply?

Tips for getting Social Security Disability or SSI benefits approved

What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?

What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?

Receiving a Disability Award Letter

Conditions Social Security will recognize as a disability

Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

Applying for disability in your state

Most popular topics on SSDRC.com

Social Security Disability SSI Questions

The listings, list of disabling impairments

Can a mental illness qualify you for disability?

Disability Lawyers prevent unnecessary denials

How much Social Security Disability SSI back pay?

How to apply for disability for a child or children

Filing a Social Security Disability SSI application

Filing for disability - when to file

How to apply for disability - where to apply

Qualifications for disability benefits

How to Prove you are disabled and Win your Disability Benefits

Qualifying for Disability - The Process

How to get disability for depression

Getting disability for fibromyalgia

SSI disability for children with ADHD

What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?

Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

Social Security Disability SSI Exam tips

More Social Security Disability SSI Questions

Social Security Disability SSI definitions

What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI?

New and featured pages on SSDRC.com

Who can help me file for disability?

Related pages:

How Does A Social Security Disability Examiner Determine a Person’s Functional Limitations?
How does Social Security determine if I am disabled or not?
How are medical records and work history used to determine a Social Security Disability claim?
How will Social Security Determine if you get Disability Benefits?
What if Social Security Disability does not follow my doctor's assessment of my condition?
Can I get disability for arthritis in my shoulders, arms, and feet?
Qualifying for disability in Missouri

Will I qualify for disability in Missouri?

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

Can you get temporary Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

Permanent Social Security Disability

What is the difference between Social Security Disability and SSI?

Who is eligible for SSI disability?

Can I Be Eligible For SSI And Social Security Disability At The Same Time?

What makes a person eligible to receive disability benefits?

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?

For the sake of clarity, SSDRC.com is not the Social Security Administration, nor is it associated or affiliated with SSA. This site is a personal, private website that is published, edited, and maintained by former caseworker and former disability claims examiner, Tim Moore, who was interviewed by the New York Times on the topic of Social Security Disability and SSI benefits in an article entitled "The Disability Mess" and also by the Los Angeles Times on the subject of political attempts to weaken the Social Security Disability system.

The goal of the site is to provide information about how Social Security Disability and SSI work, the idea being that qualified information may help claimants pursue their claims and appeals, potentially avoiding time-consuming mistakes. If you find the information on this site helpful and believe it would be helpful to others, feel free to share links to its homepage or other pages on website resource pages, blogs, or social media. Copying of this material, however, is prohibited.

To learn more about the author, please visit the SSDRC.com homepage and view the "about this site" link near the bottom of the page.