Many people with serious medical conditions find themselves wondering, “What does it take for me to get approved for disability benefits?” Unfortunately, there is no quick answer. When the Social Security Administration (SSA) reviews disability claims, they look at many factors of the claim before making a decision.
The SSA will look at your age, your education level, your prior work history, your medical conditions and how your medical conditions affect you. Once they view the full picture, the SSA will make a determination as to whether they think your medical conditions stop you from working.
Because the SSA will look at factors other than your medical condition when determining if you are disabled, there is no exhaustive list of medical conditions that SSA considers disabling. However, there are some conditions that the SSA recognizes as severe. The disability claims containing those recognized severe conditions may receive special consideration while the disability claim is being processed.
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The (Non-Comprehensive) Listing of Impairments and How It’s Used
The SSA does have a Listing of Impairments, also called the Blue Book, which contains a list of severe medical conditions that can be considered disabling and can qualify someone for disability. The Listing of Impairments establishes the criteria that need to be met for someone to qualify under the listing. Because the listing is utilized to quickly identify disabling conditions, the criteria can be extensive and hard to meet. To assess the strength of your claim compared to a listed condition, you can look to see if your condition matches the listing.
If your medical condition is included in the Listing of Impairments, you will want to carefully review the specific medical listing and the criteria to see what medical evidence the SSA will need to determine that your condition matches, or “meets” the medical listing. The criteria can be anything from lab results, procedures done by your medical team, the duration of time that you’ve had the condition and how the condition affects you day-to-day.
If you are not sure if you meet the listing, you can ask your medical provider to review it with you to see if all the criteria have been met. If you do not meet all of the criteria, you may be able to get approved if the SSA believes that your condition “equals” the listing.
Equal Versus Meet on the List of Impairments
Meeting the listing criteria means you have all of the evidence you need to prove you have the listed impairment. Equaling the listing means you may not have all of the evidence the criteria require, but are functionally the same.
Arguing that you equal the listing, or have medical equivalence, means that your medical condition has the same severity level of the listing criteria even if it does not meet the exact listing criteria. The SSA understands that the criteria are rigid and that someone may have the same condition at the same severity level but not check all the boxes. To evaluate your condition, the SSA may have a medical provider examine you to see if your conditions are severe enough to be equivalent to the medical listing.
Reviewing the List of Impairments and the Compassionate Allowances
Take a few minutes to review the Listing of Impairments on the SSA’s website. The medical conditions will be separated by type of illness. For example, if you have Asthma, you will want to look at Listing 3.00 for Respiratory Conditions or if you had a Stroke you will want to look at Listing 11.00 for Neurological Conditions.
Remember, the Listing of Impairments covers a broad range of conditions and it is possible to have more than one Listing condition. Take the time to review the Listings thoroughly. The Listings are found here: https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/AdultListings.htm
Separate from the Listing of Impairments is a shorter, more specific list of conditions that the SSA has developed to easily identify conditions that are considered to be automatically disabling. The Compassionate Allowances list is a list of extremely severe conditions that are clearly disabling, and therefore require less evidence to process the claim.
A lot of terminal illnesses and cancers are on the Compassionate Allowances list. These conditions qualify for expedited claims where people can be approved for disability within a couple weeks. If you would like to see if your medical condition qualifies for a faster, Compassionate Allowance claim, you can view the Compassionate Allowances list here: https://www.ssa.gov/compassionateallowances/conditions.htm
Make Your Claim, and Speak to an Experienced Social Security Disability Attorney if You Have Questions
Remember that the SSA will look at your entire application when deciding on your disability claim. So if you do not meet or equal a Listing condition or qualify for a compassionate allowances claim, you can still be approved for disability.
The process can be confusing, and claims are often denied. Don’t be discouraged. Contact an experienced Social Security Disability attorney at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin for a free case evaluation at 1-866-900-7078 or contact us online. We have a NC State Bar Board Certified Specialist in Social Security Disability Law and several people with experience working in the Social Security system. We’ll listen to you, review your information, and help you understand what to do next.