Qualifying for Social Security disability benefits involves a lengthy and complex evaluation process. The first step in the evaluation process is an analysis of the claimant’s specific impairment. The SSD program will look at the type and description of the claimant’s impairment, as well as medical documentation relating to their impairment.
The Social Security disability program maintains a listing of impairments to aid in this step of the evaluation process. Determining whether an asserted impairment in in the listing of impairments is not the end of the disability analysis, however. It is only the first step. If the illness or injury experienced by a claimant is in the listing of impairments, the SSA recognizes the individual as disabled. If the impairment is not listed, however, the SSA moves to a second step, using other disability rules to determine whether the applicant is disabled. An applicant’s impairment is therefore not required to be found in the listing for the applicant to be eligible for benefits.
The listing of impariments has a category for every major system of the body. Impairments or medical conditions are included in the listing if they are severe enough to prevent a person from performing any substantial gainful activity. There are two parts to the listing. Part A relates to impairments affecting adults age 18 or over. Part A listings can also be used to evaluate a child’s condition if the condition or disease affects both adults and children in the same way. Part B of the listing is used to evaluate the impairments of children under the age of 18. When a child is applying for SSD or SSI benefits, the SSA will first evaluate the impairment under Part B, moving to Part A only if no criteria under Part B is satisfied.
There are 14 major body systems or categories of impairments contained in the listing of impairments. Some of the categories are easily recognizable body systems: musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, digestive, endocrine, neurological, and immune system. The remaining categories are as follows: special senses and speech, genitourinary impairments, hematological disorders, skin disorders, congenital disorders affecting multiple body systems, and mental disorders, malignant neoplastic disease.
Source: Social Security Administration, “Disability Evaluation Under Social Security,” accessed Nov. 23, 2014