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SSDI- What injuries or conditions are disabling?

There are a variety of serious health conditions and injuries that can leave you seriously disabled and unable to return to full-time employment. Many workers wonder how the Social Security Administration (SSA) decides if they are disabled and what they will have to prove to win Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Unfortunately, the process can be complicated and many claimants are denied the first time they apply for SSDI benefits.

Proving you are disabled

The Social Security Administration does have a list of conditions and symptoms they consider disabling, but the general question the SSA will ask is whether or not your condition or conditions is so severe you can perform substantial gainful activity. It is possible to have a condition or combination of conditions and symptoms that are not listed on their SSA Listing of Impairments but still be considered disabled.

Major Conditions considered disabling by the SSA

As mentioned above, the SSA has a listing of conditions they consider disabling. This list is called the SSA Listing of Impairments or Blue Book and contains the following categories of conditions: Malignant Neoplastic Diseases, Special Senses and Speech, Respiratory System, Musculoskeletal System, Cardiovascular System, Digestive System, Genitourinary Impairments, Hematological Disorders, Skin Disorders, Endocrine Disorders, Mental Disorders, Neurological  Disorders, Impairments that affect multiple body systems and Immune System Disorders.

Having a condition listed may not be enough to be considered disabled. The SSA will also expect that your symptoms are as severe as the symptoms listed under each listing. Your condition also must be expected to last for 12 continuous months. So while your condition may be severe right now, if you cannot prove it will continue for the requisite time you will be automatically denied SSDI benefits.

What if I don’t have a condition on the SSA Listing of Impairments?

If you have a condition on the SSA Listing of impairments and have evidence that your symptoms are as severe as the symptoms listed, assuming you meet the nonmedical requirements for SSDI, you should be approved immediately and will not need legal help from a disability lawyer.

If you do not have a condition which is listed on the SSA Listing of Impairments you may be able to win benefits immediately if you can prove that your condition is as severe as a listed condition, but more likely you will have to win benefits through a medical vocational allowance. Claimants without a listed condition generally will be denied at the application level.

Winning SSDI through a medical vocational allowance

Winning benefits through a medical vocational allowance is less about your diagnosis and more about whether or not you have the ability to work. The SSA will consider all of your conditions and symptoms in their totality to determine if you have the residual functional capacity to work. Additionally, the SSA will review your age, work skills, and education to determine if you can retrain for new work (they have a series of GRIDs they use to make this determination). Unfortunately, the younger you are the less likely you are to win benefits through a medical vocational allowance.

Bottom line

The best and easiest way to win SSDI is to prove you have a condition on the SSA Listing of Impairments. This will require good medical information about your condition(s) and your symptoms. If your condition does not meet a listing it may be time to talk to a good disability attorney and find out what additional information you need to provide to the SSA to prove you do not have the ability to retrain for some type of new work.
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