What automatically qualifies you for disability benefits

This question doesn’t have a definitive answer, but the closest thing you’ll find is the Social Security Blue Book.

This online compendium, also known as the Social Security Disability Assessment, lists the physical and mental health conditions that automatically qualify you as meeting the medical requirements for disability insurance. Social Security (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), provided you meet the rigorous list of criteria for each condition.

“Automatic” here means that Social Security recognizes that these conditions meet its basic definition of disability: an illness or injury that prevents you from working for at least a year or is likely to result in death. To receive SSDI, you must also have spent a certain period of work for which you have paid social security contributions. To be eligible for SSI, you must have very limited income and financial assets.

List of impairments

The Blue Book lists are divided into sections for adults and children, reflecting the different ways in which Social Security examiners assess the effect of a particular condition on those under 18 and those 18 and older. Part A, the adult section, is divided into 14 categories representing types of disorders or diseases of various body systems:

  • musculoskeletal system, such as amputation, chronic joint pain and spinal disorders
  • Special meaning and speech, such as hearing, sight or speech disorders
  • Respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and cystic fibrosis
  • Cardiovascular illnesses, such as arrhythmia, congenital heart disease and heart failure
  • Digestive system, such as bowel or liver disease
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • blood disorders, such as sickle cell disease and other anemias, bone marrow failure or haemophilia
  • Dermatological problems, such as burns, dermatitis, and ichthyosis, a group of about 20 conditions that cause dryness and flaking
  • Endocrine Disorders, such as diabetes and thyroid problems
  • Congenital disorders such as Down syndrome that affect multiple body systems
  • Neurological Disorders, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and traumatic brain injury
  • Cognitive and mental health problems, such as bipolar disorder, dementia, depression, intellectual disabilities and schizophrenia
  • Cancer
  • Immune System Diseases, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), inflammatory arthritis and lupus

Part B, the childhood lists, encompasses the 14 categories of the adult section plus a child-specific category, low birth weight and stunting. The disability standard for minors is also different. Rather than looking at work-related factors, Social Security examiners assess whether a condition will cause severe functional limitations for at least a year or if it is likely to be fatal.

The list of impairments is not exhaustive: you can still benefit from SSDI or SSI if your disorder is not specified in the Blue Book or if it is but you do not correspond exactly to the medical requirements cited. You will, however, need to argue with Social Security that your illness or symptoms are as severe as those stated in the book in terms of limiting your work or daily functioning.

keep in mind

The Blue Book should not be confused with Social Security’s Compassionate Care Allowance (CAL) program, although both list conditions that, by definition, meet the Social Security disability standard. The CAL program designates the conditions that may allow you to obtain an expedited decision on an SSDI or SSI claim. The Blue Book establishes criteria for considering a condition disabling, not for speeding up the process.

About Antoine L. Cassell

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