Social Security Administration (SSA) has a stringent evaluation process that all claims must go through to determine whether the individual is eligible to receive disability benefits under either the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. Although other criteria differ between the two programs, the criteria for disability remain the same for both.
You may see the words “Blue Book” and “Listings” (short for “Listing of Impairments”) and wonder what they mean. First, they are used interchangeably to represent the requirements your condition must meet in order to be considered disabled by SSA’s standards. The Listings describe impairments that they consider severe enough that an individual who suffers from one of them could not work at the level of substantial gainful activity. The Listings are no longer published in hardcopy and are, instead, updated electronically.
Secondly, the Listings are just one step in a multi-step process that SSA uses to evaluate your claim; therefore, if your condition does not meet the Listings, that does not mean you cannot qualify for benefits. It just means that SSA must move on to the next step to evaluate your disability. With other steps come other rules that SSA must follow to determine your eligibility.
The Blue Book is divided into different sections for each major body system. Part A outlines impairments for individuals age 18 and older. Part B covers impairments for individuals under age 18. The listed impairments provide for both mental and physical conditions, and almost all of them require proof of objective medical data. SSA places substantial emphasis on laboratory findings, such as X-rays, exercise tests, chemical analysis, psychological tests, and MRIs.
Part A is divided into 14 sections: 1) musculoskeletal system; 2) special senses 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.
Part B is divided into 15 sections: 1) low birth weight and failure to thrive; 2) musculoskeletal system; 3) special senses and speech; 4) respiratory disorders; 5) cardiovascular system; 6) digestive system; 7) genitourinary disorders; 8) hematological disorders; 9) skin disorders; 10) endocrine disorders; 11) congenital disorders that affect multiple body systems; 12) neurological disorders; 13) mental disorders; 14) cancer (malignant neoplastic diseases); and 15) immune system disorders.
Usually, if your condition meets the listing, that is sufficient to establish your disability for SSA. But remember, even if you do not meet the criteria contained in the Blue Book, you may still be eligible for benefits. You may be able to prove medical equivalence, which means you can prove that your condition has the same level of severity and will last as long as one of the Listings.