Medical Listings

The Listing of Impairments describes medical conditions that are so severe the Social Security Administration presumes if you have a medical condition(s) that satisfies the criteria of a listing, then you are unable to perform any gainful activity and, therefore, are disabled. The inability to work also must have lasted or be expected to last for at least 12 continuous months or be expected to result in death. According to the Social Security Administration, the listings are special rules and criteria to help them identify claims that should clearly be allowed for Social Security disability benefits. The Listing of Impairments is often referred to as the “Blue Book.” There are 14 sections under Part A of the Listing of Impairments, which apply to individuals age 18 and over, and 15 sections under Part B, which apply to children under the age 18. Each section provides medical criteria for the evaluation of impairments.

If your disability is listed, the next step is to determine if your medical condition meets the specific criteria for that condition to automatically qualify for benefits. In order to meet a listing, you must meet all of the requirements of that listing.  The listing requirements can be complex and you may think you meet the criteria, but you may not. In some cases, a medical condition or combination of medical conditions that are not listed can be found to “equal” one of the listed impairments. The Social Security Administration allows you to equal a listing because it can’t include every form or variant of a severe disability in its impairment listings. Equaling a listing can happen if a doctor explains to the Social Security Administration that your medical condition is similar to a listed impairment and that you are just as limited as someone who meets the listing for that condition. A great deal of medical evidence is needed to prove you meet or equal a medical listing.

The criteria in the Listing of Impairments apply only to one step of the multi-step sequential evaluation process (See ‘Five-Step Sequential Evaluation Process’). At this step, the presence of an impairment that meets the criteria in the Listing of Impairments (or is of equal severity) is usually sufficient to establish that an individual who is not working is disabled. So if you are still eligible for disability benefits after the first two steps of the Five-Step Sequential Evaluation Process and SSA determines that you meet or equal a listed impairment, then the determination stops there and you are deemed to meet the criteria for receiving disability benefits without further analysis as to whether you could work in your prior occupations or any other job, and you win your case. However, the absence of a listing-level impairment does not mean you are not disabled. Rather, it merely requires the adjudicator to move on to the next step of the process and apply other rules in order to resolve your issue of disability.

Your representative can help you determine whether your condition meets the severity requirements of the Social Security Administration to qualify for disability benefits.