General Description of a Qualifying Disability
For a physical or mental impairment to be recognized as a qualified disability by the Social Security Administration, the illness, condition, or disorder (or a combination of them) must be severe enough that a worker cannot engage in any substantial gainful activity, and the impairment must have lasted or be expected to last for at least 12 months or be expected to result in the person’s death.
The government defines a “substantial gainful activity” as one in which you can earn a set minimum amount of income. For the year 2021, the term is defined as the ability to earn $1,310 per month, or for a blind applicant, $2,190. If your impairment prevents you from earning at least that salary by working, then you will be considered disabled.
What qualifies as a disability?
There are dozens of diseases, disorders, and conditions specifically defined in a set of “Listed Impairments” that qualify a person for SSDI benefits. Of course, in the real world, people often suffer more than one illness or disorder at a time. In cases where one impairment is not severe enough to warrant a disability finding, other co-occurring physical or mental conditions can combine to result in a finding of clear disability under SSDI rules.
The Social Security Administration’s list of impairments is a starting point to find what can qualify you for SSDI. While your disability may not fit into one of these specific groups, they represent examples of the physical and mental limitations that lead to a formal disability finding.
Musculoskeletal problems – This group includes a wide variety of conditions that affect a person’s ability to move their body. Disease, degenerative factors, and injury can damage the body’s joints, connective tissues, and bone strength. For many SSDI recipients, merely walking, sitting, bending, reaching, lifting, or turning causes them so much pain that no substantial employment is possible.
- Joint deformity or loss of function.
- Back pain from degenerative disc disease, ruptured discs, or spinal disorder.
- Bone fractures, amputations.
- Degenerative Joint Disease.
- Degenerative Disk Disease.
- Hip degeneration or fractures.
Loss of Senses – Losing your sight can happen gradually, in progressive stages. Similarly, hearing loss, or an inability to feel something by touch can make working a regular job increasingly difficult. Eventually, the impairment becomes so restricting that no gainful employment is feasible. If the condition is treatable, as with a cochlear implant to restore hearing, you may still qualify if the impairment will continue for 12 months before being corrected.
- Vision impairment or blindness.
- Hearing impairment or deafness.
Respiratory illnesses – This disability group includes the conditions that challenge your ability to breathe efficiently.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Chronic bronchitis.
- Pulmonary fibrosis.
- Severe asthma.
- Cystic fibrosis.
- Chronic pulmonary hypertension.
Cardiovascular conditions – Heart dysfunctions and circulatory problems include another large group of impairments that are recognized as grounds for an SSDI disability finding.
- Chronic heart failure (especially ventricular dysfunction).
- Pain from myocardial ischemia (lack of blood to the heart).
- Coronary artery disease.
- Vein or artery disorders (peripheral vascular disease – PVD).
Digestive tract problems – Many disorders and problems involving the digestive system respond successfully to treatment, so for one of these impairments to be the basis of a disability finding, the Social Security Administration considers the severity, the persistence, and the origin of the issue.
- Short bowel syndrome.
- Chronic liver disease.
- Gastrointestinal hemorrhaging that requires a blood transfusion.
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
- Crohn’s disease.
- Weight loss caused by any digestive disorder.
- Liver transplant.
Neurological disorders – These disorders can be the cause of many of the dysfunctions we already discussed. When the brain or the nervous system malfunctions or develops a disease, the function of other bodily systems often become disabling.
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease).
- Alzheimer’s disease.
- Benign brain tumors.
- Parkinson’s disease.
- Cerebral palsy.
- Multiple sclerosis.
- Muscular dystrophy.
- Neurodegenerative disorders (such as Huntington’s Chorea, Friedreich’s ataxia, and spinocerebellar degeneration).
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Cancer – There are many forms of cancer that afflict people in every part of society. Cancers can attack each of the bodily systems and are assessed by considering their source, whether treatments are effective, the stage to which the cancer has advanced, whether the lymphatic system was invaded, and other factors informing the prognosis for the person applying for SSDI.
Mental Disorders – Psychiatric and emotional disorders are recognized as disabling where the impact on the person’s daily life activities and ability to maintain consistent work is compromised, either alone or in combination with other physical or mental impairments.
- Intellectual or developmental disability.
Immune Disorders – These illnesses affect the body’s ability to protect itself from outside entities like viruses, bacteria, or any environmental threat.
- HIV Aids.
- Connective Tissue Disease.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis.
- Multiple Sclerosis.
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Many more qualifying disabilities.
So many other illnesses, disorders, impairments, and syndromes can qualify you for Social Security Disability that we cannot list them all here.