What Conditions Qualify For Disability?

To receive disability benefits through the Social Security Administration, you must show that you suffer from a condition that meets the agency’s qualifications. It is not always easy to understand what conditions qualify for disability. 

At Burgess & Christensen, we recognize the challenges you face as you try to obtain benefits. We offer support and assistance throughout the process of applying for disability benefits. While we would be happy to provide a free consultation to discuss your particular eligibility, here are some general factors to keep in mind regarding conditions that qualify for disability benefits. 

What is Disability?

Disability, in the context of Social Security, refers to the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA) due to a physical or mental impairment that is expected to last for at least one year or result in death. The Social Security Administration (SSA) evaluates both the severity and the duration of your condition to determine eligibility for benefits.

Qualifying Conditions for Disability

To qualify for disability benefits, your condition must be severe enough to significantly limit your ability to perform basic work activities. The SSA maintains a list of impairments, often referred to as the “Blue Book,” which outlines specific medical conditions that automatically qualify for disability if certain criteria are met. 

Below are some of the common categories of impairments:

Musculoskeletal Disorders

Conditions affecting bones, muscles, joints, and ligaments fall under musculoskeletal disorders. Examples include:

  • Severe Arthritis: Limits mobility and causes chronic pain.
  • Spinal Disorders: These include herniated discs, scoliosis, or spinal stenosis, which impair movement and function.

Cardiovascular Conditions

Heart and circulatory system disorders can also qualify for disability. These include:

  • Chronic Heart Failure: Persistent and severe heart function impairment.
  • Coronary Artery Disease: Severe cases that limit physical activity and cause frequent hospitalizations.

Respiratory Disorders

Respiratory conditions that significantly impede breathing and oxygen intake include:

  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): Severe cases that require oxygen therapy.
  • Asthma: Frequent severe attacks requiring intensive medical treatment.

Neurological Disorders

Neurological impairments affecting the brain, spinal cord, and nerves can qualify for disability. Examples include:

  • Epilepsy: Frequent seizures that are not controlled by medication.
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS): Progressive and debilitating symptoms affecting mobility and coordination.

Mental Disorders

Mental health conditions can be just as debilitating as physical ones. Qualifying conditions include:

  • Major Depressive Disorder: Severe, persistent depression affecting daily functioning.
  • Schizophrenia: Severe symptoms that impede the ability to work and interact socially.

Proving that you have a disabling condition is not enough to qualify for benefits. You must be prepared to show how the condition prevents you from working.  

How the SSA Evaluates Disability Claims

The SSA follows a five-step evaluation process to determine if you qualify for disability benefits:

  1. Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA): The SSA checks if you are currently working and earning above a certain amount.
  2. Severity of Condition: Your impairment must significantly limit your ability to perform basic work activities.
  3. Listed Impairments: Your condition must either match a listed impairment in the Blue Book or be of equal severity.
  4. Past Relevant Work: The SSA examines if you can still perform any work that you performed in the past five years. 
  5. Any Other Work: The SSA considers if you can adjust to other types of work given your condition, age, education, and work experience.

Fortunately for applicants, the work experience that the SSA will consider to determine whether you are capable of supporting yourself is decreasing to include only the most recent experience and exclude skills that may be out of date. 

Practical Tips for Applying for Disability Benefits

The application process can be daunting, but as attorneys who focus our practice on helping clients obtain disability benefits, we know there are steps you can take to help improve your chances of approval. 

Ensure that all medical records, including treatment history and doctor’s notes, are comprehensive and up-to-date. Regularly visit your healthcare providers and follow prescribed treatments. Provide precise and truthful information on your application. Most applicants need to persevere through at least one appeal and most have to go through a hearing before they are awarded benefits. Consider working with a disability attorney who can guide you through the process, strengthen your application, and represent you during the hearing if necessary.

Common Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Applying for disability benefits is often fraught with challenges. Many applications are denied initially. If this happens, don’t be discouraged. Appeals are a common and necessary part of the process. 

You can improve your chances of approval by ensuring that all sections of your application are complete and that you provide thorough documentation. Inadequate medical evidence is a frequent reason for denial. An experienced attorney will know the type of documentation the SSA is looking for and how to present evidence persuasively to demonstrate eligibility. Work closely with your doctors to ensure all necessary information is provided.

Why Choose Burgess & Christensen?

At Burgess & Christensen, we understand the complexities of applying for disability benefits. Our experienced team is dedicated to providing personalized support to help you face the process and increase your chances of a successful outcome.

Contact Us Today

If you need assistance with your disability claim, Burgess & Christensen is here to help. Call us today at 770-422-8111 or contact us online to schedule a consultation. We are committed to helping you secure the benefits you need to support your well-being.