Social Security Disability list of impairments

Can I be approved through a listing?

by Tim Moore, Disability Representative in North Carolina

What is the list of impairments?

The Social Security Disability list of impairments is an organized collection of medical conditions for which the Social Security Administration has provided specific approval criteria.

(Read if you live in North Carolina)

The listings are organized by adult and childhood impairments and also by body systems, such as mental disorders, immune system disorders, skin disorders, digestive system disorders, hemic and lymphatic system disorders, respiratory system disorders, musculoskeletal system disorders, and cardiovascular system disorders.

This list is referred to by decision-makers on claims (depending on what level your claim is at, the “decision-maker” will be a disability examiner or an administrative law judge) as simply “the listings”. This list is also referred to as “the blue book” because for several decades the listings were published in a book with a blue cover, titled “Disability Evaluation under Social Security”.

Can I get approved by having a condition on the list?

Most Social Security Disability and SSI claims are NOT decided on whether a person can satisfy the requirements of a listing. That’s for two reasons. First, the great majority of all medical conditions…are not contained in the listing book. Second, being approved under a listing often means that a claimant’s condition was very well documented. But very often, the medical records obtained from treatment providers are too vague to satisfy the requirements of a listing (and this is why it is so useful to get medical source statements from doctors to use at disability hearings).

Thus, in most instances when disability benefits are awarded, it will not be because the claimant’s case met or equaled the criteria of a listing in the blue book.

Click for some of the more well-known conditions in the listings

How do I get approved for disability?

As a Disability Representative, I can say that most cases are won by reviewing a claimant’s work history and medical history to determine if they can go back to work.

Usually, a person will be approved if they are found to have a severe impairment that has already stopped their ability to do their past work.

Their condition must also be considered severe enough that it prevents them from being able to perform some type of other work. What is other work? Other work is work that their work skills might suit them for, provided that other vocational factors such as their age, education, and remaining functional capabilities do not stand in the way.

Still, some people DO get approved on a listing

Getting disability by satisfying a listing means that you have the right information in your medical records. However, it can also mean that the right person was looking at your medical records and knew what to look for. This is another example of how representation can benefit you. Because even very strong disability cases are routinely denied, often because a disability examiner wasn’t looking at the medical information properly.

Here is a partial listing of mental and physical conditions that are listed (and organized under specific body systems) in the impairment listing manual:

  • Musculoskeletal conditions – Including degenerative disc disease, stenosis, scoliosis, osteoarthritis, fractures, and soft tissue injuries.
  • Special Senses and Speech disorders – Including Hearing deficits, speech pathology, and contraction of visual fields, and loss of visual acuity and efficiency.
  • Respiratory impairments – Incuding asthmatic illness, sleep apnea, emphysema.
  • Cardiovascular disorders – Including coronary artery disease, chronic heart disease, valvular defects, and arrhythmias.
  • Digestive System disorders- Including chronic liver disease, hepatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, gastrointestinal hemorrhaging, and liver transplantation.
  • Genitourinary System conditions – Including kidney disease and transplantation.
  • Hematological (blood) System conditions – Including polycythemia, anemia, and granulocytopenia.
  • Skin disorders – Including icthyosis and hidradenitis suppurtiva.
  • Endocrine disorders – Including hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
  • Multiple Body System conditions – Including down syndrome.
  • Neurological conditions – Including grand mal seizures, petit mal seizures, TBI, CVA, and ALS.
  • Mental impairments – Including depression, anxiety, panic attacks, loss of cognition, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, somatoform disorders, and austism.
  • Malignant Neoplastic conditions – Including cancers affecting all body systems.
  • Immune System disorders – Including lupus, scleroderma, sjogren’s syndrome, and HIV, and inflammatory arthritis.

Additional information relating to these topics:

How are disability cases approved? – the approval process

The likelihood of winning a disability case depends on several factors

The SSA Adult listings for disabling medical conditions