At step 3 of the disability process, a claim is approved if the individual meets or equals a “listing.” The Social Security Administration has a publication called the Blue Book Listing of Impairments. In this publication, the Social Security Administration identifies situations in which individuals would be disabled regardless of age, education, or work experience.
In the Blue Book, Social Security has nearly every common condition, for both adults and children. For Social Security to determine if someone meets a listing, they find the condition in the list of impairments, confirm that the individual meets the criteria for the impairment, then compare the objective medical evidence to the requirement for the listing. If the criteria are met, the claim is approved if the individual is not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity. The diagnosis itself often does not mean that the individual meets the listing, as functional impairment plays a significant role in the determination.
For situations in which an impairment is not listed, an individual can “equal” a listing if the symptoms and/or limitations as a result of the impairment are similar to that of another listing. For example, migraines are not in the Blue Book Listing of Impairments, but the symptoms can be similar to epilepsy. Therefore, an individual suffering from migraines with the same limitations as the listing criteria can equal the epilepsy listing.
If an individual does not meet or equal a listing, Social Security will proceed through additional steps to determine if he or she is disabled considering their residual functional capacity, age, education, and work experience.