Social Security Disability: What Medical Conditions Qualify?
January 31, 2017
Social Security Disability Insurance is a federal program that issues monthly benefits to disabled U.S. citizens who have not yet reached retirement age. People must meet specific requirements to qualify for these benefits, which include having a medical condition that meets eligibility parameters.
SSA Definition of Disability
The Social Security Administration defines disability for the purpose of determining the eligibility of these benefits. Individuals must meet the following criteria:
- It is physically impossible for the individual to continue working as he or she previously worked.
- The SSA determines that a medical condition prevents adjustments to continue performing work.
- The medical condition has lasted or will last at least one year, or it is presumed to result in death.
The Impairment Listing Manual
The SSA maintains a manual that lists physical and mental impairments that automatically qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. Some impairments include:
- Cardiovascular conditions (heart failure or congenital heart disease)
- Neurological disorders (Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, or cerebral palsy)
- Musculoskeletal issues (rheumatoid arthritis or back injuries)
- Digestive tract problems (irritable bowel syndrome)
- Immune system disorders (HIV, AIDS, or lupus)
- Mental illness (schizophrenia, depression, or autism)
Qualifying For a Disability Listing
Individuals often have medical conditions that do not match criteria in the Impairment Listing Manual precisely. In these cases, the SSA can review to determine if a condition is medically equivalent to its listings. Social Security Disability benefits can be granted if impairments are very similar to the conditions listed in the manual. Individuals may also receive benefits if they have a combination of illnesses with the combined effects being similar or equal to listed impairments. Also, some people may have a listed impairment, but the severity of the condition doesn’t match the SSA’s criteria. In this situation, other medical issues may contribute to the condition, which makes the overall condition equal to the listing.
The claimant must prove to the SSA how and why the medical conditions equal the criteria, which will involve submitting medical evidence. Approval may take up to a year due to appeals. Upon approval, benefits begin after five full months of disability have elapsed.
Individuals may seek the assistance of a disability lawyer when applying for Social Security Disability, especially when factors necessitate equaling disability criteria or a denial and appeal process.