What are the Social Security Disability “Listings”?

The “listed” medical conditions for social security disability – the so-called “Listings”- are a source of great confusion.  Social security maintains a so-called “Blue Book” of impairments and criteria regarding the impairments severity that the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers bad enough to prevent someone from working – regardless of age, work background or education.

They include a set of criteria – medical findings and or symptoms – that social security has found medical experts agree add up to a disabling condition.  For example, a person with inflammatory arthritis can “meet” the listing if they have inflammation or deformity in one or more major joints of an upper or a lower extremity and  involvement of two or more organs/body systems with one of the organs/body systems involved to at least a moderate level of severity.  There are more details about meeting the listing for inflammatory arthritis, but the listings set out specific criteria that, if present, mean automatic disability approval.

The confusion about social security disability “listings” arise due to the following:

Not all conditions that could provide the basis for social security disability benefit approval are set out in the listings.

Social Security disability applicants who do not find a “Listing” for their medical condition often wrongly conclude that social security disability benefits are not available to them. The Listings represent the most common impairments and illnesses but are not an exhaustive list of conditions that support disability benefit payment.  You can still qualify for social security disability benefits even if your condition has no “Listing.  The Listings are not an all-inclusive list of all the impairments and diagnosed conditions that could provide the basis of social security disability benefits.

Just being diagnosed with a “listed” condition is not enough: your condition must have the specific diagnostic findings and evidence set out in the “Listing”

Disability applicants who find their condition is “on the list” often wrongfully conclude that their approval for disability benefits will be automatic.  The “compassionate allowance” list has perhaps contributes to the wrong perception that a listing-based disability approval is all about the diagnosis of a given condition alone.

Failure to Meet the Listing Criteria for your Impairment is not the End of Your Disability Case.

This is perhaps the most common misunderstanding about the Listings.  Many disability applicants look at the listing for their condition, find they do not meet the criteria, and wrongly conclude they cannot get social security disability.

A listed condition that does not meeting the criteria for the Listing can STILL qualify for social security disability benefits.  In fact, most approvals for social security disability benefits with a listing do not qualify for benefits based upon meeting a listing.  Rather, the Listings represent the most severe case of the given conditions.  They are, in essence, a “short cut” to disability benefits approval – but failing to take that path just means the Administrative Law Judge must move on in the analysis of your disability case.

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