Social Security Disability Approvals - Medical Conditions and Getting Approved

You can get Social Security Disability (SSDI) or SSI benefits for any medical condition, provided that you supply medical documentation to back up the fact that your condition is likely to prevent you from working enough to earn a living wage for at least one year. (Just exactly how much in earnings constitutes a living wage is determined each year by the social security administration and is referred to as the SGA, or substantial gainful activity, amount.)

There is a specific manual that lists impairments that SSA considers approvals for disabilities; however, many common medical conditions, such as arthritis, scoliosis, chronic back pain, Lyme disease, chronic fatigue, manic depression, etc., are not specifically listed or referred to in the disability impairment manual (commonly called the 'blue book').

If you are suffering with a disability that is not listed in the SSA blue book, do not think for a minute that this means you cannot qualify for disability benefits. In fact, although some disability claims are granted because the impairment meets criteria listed in the blue book for a specific condition listed in the blue book, the majority of disability applicants are awarded disability benefits in the form of a medical vocational allowance.

A medical vocational allowance is given to claimants based on the extent to which their disability inhibits them from working: Can the disabled individual return to their job with medication, a reduced workload or ergonomic changes, physical therapy, etc.; or if they are unable to return to their former job, can they perform a comparable job given their past work experience, physical, mental or psychological symptoms, age and education? If the answer to both of these questions is no, then the disability claimant will be awarded a medical vocational allowance.

SSD and SSI determinations are made based, not on the nature of the condition itself, but on the extent to which the condition limits an individual's ability to perform his or her daily activities, which SSA calls residual functional capacity. Note that residual functional capacity (RFC) encompasses both physical and mental limitations that may impair a claimant's ability to perform daily tasks.

Regardless of the medical condition for which you are filing for disability, keep in mind that no disability benefits will be awarded unless you can provide medical records to support the fact that you are currently disabled, that your condition is likely to be ongoing, and that it is inhibiting your ability to work.

Make sure to tell your treating physician(s) exactly how your impairment limits your ability to perform daily activities and work responsibilities so that this information will be reflected in your doctor's notes, which will help in getting your disability claim approved. Also, be sure to provide social security with the contact information for physicians/medical facilities, as well as dates of treatment, so that the disability examiner in your case can request the medical records necessary to substantiate your claim.

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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