If you have been diagnosed with a medical condition or disorder that has left you unable to work, you may want to consider applying for social security benefits. Generally, disabled Americans with qualifying medical conditions can apply for either Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or supplemental security income (SSI).
What Medical Conditions Qualify for Social Security Benefits?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a list of impairments, disorders, and disabilities that may qualify applicants for SSDI or SSI benefits. This list is known as the “Blue Book.” Hundreds of impairments are listed in the Blue Book, though they all fall under one of 14 categories.
Keep in mind that a diagnosis in one of these areas does not automatically qualify you for SSDI benefits.
Musculoskeletal disorders include disorders of the spine or extremities. These disorders may impact your movement.
Special Senses and Speech
This category includes blindness and visual impairment, deafness and hearing loss, and loss of speech.
Respiratory disorders include asthma, cystic fibrosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Cardiovascular diseases include chronic heart failure, recurrent arrhythmias, and aneurysms.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), chronic liver disease, and other digestive disorders fall under this category.
The genitourinary system includes the organs in the reproductive and urinary systems. Chronic kidney disease is a genitourinary disorder.
Hematological disorders disrupt the function of white and red blood cells. They include certain types of anemia and bone marrow failure.
Qualifying skin disorders include dermatitis, burns, and chronic infections of the skin.
Endocrine disorders cause hormonal imbalances. Most endocrine disorders cause impairments to other systems in the body, such as the cardiovascular, digestive, and neurological systems.
Congenital Disorders that Affect Multiple Body Systems
Non-mosaic Down syndrome (Trisomy 21) is evaluated under this section.
Neurological disorders can impair both physical and mental function. Some neurological disorders included in this section include epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, and muscular dystrophy.
Mental disorders can include mood and personality disorders, as well as intellectual disabilities and mental health disorders. Some disorders listed under this section include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression, autism spectrum disorder, and eating disorders.
Most types of cancer are evaluated under this section.
Immune System Disorders
This section includes immune deficiency disorders, inflammatory arthritis, and other disorders that impair your immune system.
What Else Is Required to Qualify for SSDI Benefits?
Generally, having a disabling condition does not automatically qualify you for SSDI benefits. After you submit your disability application, the SSA will determine whether your medical condition meets their definition of disability.
The SSA uses three criteria to determine disability:
- Your medical condition prevents you from working and engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA)
- Your medical condition prevents you from doing work you did previously and from adjusting to other work
- Your medical condition has lasted or will last at least 12 months
To qualify for SSDI, you must also prove that you worked in jobs covered by Social Security. The longer and more recently you worked, the better your chances of qualifying for SSDI.
The qualifications for SSI are slightly broader. The Social Security Administration may approve your SSI application if you:
- Are 65 or older, are blind, or have a qualifying disability
- Have limited income
- Have limited resources
How Do I Prove I Have a Disabling Condition?
For both SSDI and SSI, you will need to provide medical evidence of your disability. This evidence must come from an “acceptable medical source,” and may include things like:
- Treatment notes
- Bloodwork panels
- Imaging, like an X-ray or MRI
- Medical exam results
- Vision screening results
What Are Compassionate Allowances?
In many cases, it takes months for the SSA to approve your disability application and for you to begin receiving benefits. Some disabilities, however, clearly meet the SSA’s definition of disability. People with these conditions may be given Compassionate Allowance.
Compassionate Allowances help the SSA reach a disability determination more quickly for more serious medical conditions. If you have a disability that qualifies under Compassionate Allowance, your waiting time may be reduced. Conditions that qualify under Compassionate Allowance include a number of cancers, brain disorders, and rare childhood disorders.
What if My Disability Is Not Listed in the Blue Book?
You may still qualify for social security benefits, even if the Blue Book does not mention your specific medical condition(s).
If you experience a number of illnesses or disorders that do not exactly match the listings in the Blue Book, your combined symptoms may still match the severity of one qualifying disability. If you can prove that your symptoms are equal in severity to those of a Blue Book listing, you may still qualify for benefits.
How Can a Social Security Disability Lawyer Help Me?
The disability claims process can quickly become complex, stressful, and overwhelming. Attempting to apply for benefits on your own can be confusing and even upsetting. A Social Security Disability Lawyer can help.
The SSDI attorneys with The Advocates have been helping disabled Americans with their disability claims for years and we are ready to help you too. An SSDI lawyer can help you:
- Determine whether you qualify for benefits
- Understand the difference between SSDI and SSI, and decide which is right for you
- Compile medical evidence of your disability
- Fill out your disability application
- Appeal the SSA’s decision if your application is denied
- Present your case to an administrative law judge if necessary
Contact The Advocates today for a free consultation. You deserve an attorney who will fight for your rights. You deserve an Advocate.