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Social Security Disability’s Blue Book

By January 19, 20214 min read

If you apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, you will inevitably come across the Blue Book, officially titled Disability Evaluation Under Social Security. The Blue Book provides lists of impairments divided into fourteen sections. Each section contains medical criteria you must meet in order to qualify for disability benefits.

The fourteen sections correspond to specific areas of the body and are as follows: 1) musculoskeletal system; 2) special sense and speech; 3) respiratory disorders; 4) cardiovascular system; 5) digestive system; 6) genitourinary disorders; 7) hematological disorders; 8) skin disorders; 9) endocrine disorders; 10) congenital disorders that affect multiple body systems; 11) neurological disorders; 12) mental disorders; 13) cancer (malignant neoplastic diseases); and 14) immune system disorders.

The listings do not stand alone but are a part of the larger disability evaluation process. In addition to meeting the criteria in the listings, you will also be evaluated on your past work experience, age, education, work skills, and the severity of your medical conditions. When SSA evaluates your claim, it will pay close attention to the severity of your condition, as explained through the medical documentation that you provide when you apply for benefits.

If your impairment meets the criteria of one of the listings, it is not a guarantee that you will be awarded disability benefits, but it is usually sufficient to establish that you are completely disabled by Social Security Administration’s (SSA) standards. On the other hand, if your condition does not meet the listing criteria, that does not mean that you are disqualified from receiving benefits, but it does mean that you will need to move on to additional levels of the disability review process to determine if you have a qualifying disability.

In addition to lists of criteria, the Blue Book provides general information on each listed disability and the evidence required to prove that your disability qualifies you for benefits. It also provides the tests required to confirm the diagnosis of disabilities and evaluate their severity. The Blue Book is designed to give you the information you need to understand how SSA will look at your claim and the evidence that you will need to provide SSA to approve you for benefits on the basis of a specific condition or combination of conditions.

You should consider retaining an experienced disability attorney to assist you with your claim because, although the Blue Book is important for disability determinations, it is not written so that it is easy for the general public to understand—it is complex and technical because it is written for disability and medical professionals. An attorney can help you wade through the jargon so that you know what you need to prove to win your case.

If your initial application does not meet the listings, a disability claims examiner will look to see if there is a different impairment listed, equivalent in severity, whose criteria your condition does meet. It is also possible that you suffer from a variety of conditions, each of which on its own would not meet a listing, but together meet the severity of a listing.

Remember that the Blue Book listings are not exhaustive lists of all medical conditions; therefore, if your condition does not fall neatly into one of the listings, your claim will not be disqualified but, rather, will be moved on to the next stage of disability evaluations.