The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a strict definition of disability. To qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, you must have a medical condition that:
- Is expected to last at least one year or result in death
- Prevents you from working at any job
There are many conditions that can qualify as disabling under the SSA’s definition, and most of these conditions are deemed a disability on a case-by-case basis. However, some conditions automatically meet the SSA’s baseline definition of disability.
Impairments Included in the Social Security Blue Book
The SSA has a publication called the “Blue Book” that lists specific qualifying impairments. If your condition is listed in the Blue Book, you will automatically qualify for disability benefits if you meet the criteria for your particular listing. Each condition includes a rigid list of criteria that one must meet to qualify for benefits.
The listings in the Blue Book are divided into two sections:
- Adult Listings (over 18 years of age)
- Childhood Listings (under 18 years of age)
The adult section includes the following 14 categories:
- Musculoskeletal system (conditions such as chronic joint pain, spinal disorders, and amputation)
- Special senses and speech (conditions such as hearing, speech, or sight impairments)
- Respiratory disorders (conditions such as COPD, cystic fibrosis, and asthma)
- Cardiovascular system (conditions such as heart failure and arrhythmia)
- Digestive system (conditions such as bowel disease)
- Genitourinary disorders (conditions such as chronic kidney disease)
- Hematologic disorders (conditions such as bone marrow failure)
- Skin disorders (conditions such as dermatitis, ichthyosis, and burns)
- Endocrine disorders (conditions such as thyroid problems and diabetes)
- Congenital disorders that affect multiple body systems (conditions such as Down syndrome)
- Neurological disorders (conditions such as ALS, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy)
- Mental disorders (conditions such as dementia, schizophrenia, and depression)
- Immune system disorders (conditions such as lupus, HIV, and Sjögren’s syndrome)
The childhood section includes each of the categories listed in the adult section along with an additional category labeled “low birth rate and failure to thrive.”
How Does the Blue Book Differ From the Compassionate Allowances Program?
The SSA also has a Compassionate Allowances program that allows certain claimants to receive an accelerated decision on their disability claim. The SSA determines which conditions are included in the Compassionate Allowances program by conducting public hearings, reviewing the advice of medical and scientific experts, and analyzing data from the National Institutes of Health.
Similar to the Blue Book, this program also includes a list of conditions that will automatically qualify an applicant for disability benefits, such as specific cancers, adult brain disorders, and rare pediatric disorders. However, its purpose differs in that it’s designed to expedite decisions for certain people rather than serve as a general guide to qualifying conditions.
Please note that this list of conditions is not exhaustive. There are many other conditions that can qualify you for Social Security Disability benefits. If you think you may qualify for benefits, it’s important to talk to your doctor and a disability attorney. They can help you understand the SSA’s definition of disability and whether your condition meets the criteria.