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Do you have to have a “listed” condition to get SSDI?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has long maintained a guide known as the “Blue Book” that outlines various medical conditions and exactly what it takes to be considered “disabled” due to those listed conditions.

But, do you have to have a condition that’s actually on the list – and to that exact degree of severity – to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits? You do not. Here’s what you should know:

The Blue Book isn’t exhaustive

While having a condition listed in the Blue Book can expedite the determination process when you file for SSDI, it is not a strict requirement for eligibility. In fact, far from it. This is partially due to the fact that there are many medical and psychological conditions that simply are not on the list. SSA recognizes that there are numerous other conditions that can still significantly impair your ability to work.

If your condition does happen to be included in the Blue Book, SSA will evaluate the severity of your impairment against its listing. If you meet the criteria exactly, you’re presumed to meet SSA’s definition of “disabled” without any further evaluation. That can shorten your wait for benefits considerably.

What happens, then, if your condition isn’t on the list? Or, what if you have several comorbid conditions that are listed, but none of them individually exactly meet SSA’s guidelines for disability? In those cases, SSA assesses your condition by looking at the bigger picture. The agency will ask questions like:

  • Does the combined effect of your impairments equal a disabling condition? For example, psoriatic arthritis, moderate anxiety and diabetes could all be individually manageable, but the combination of the three could be entirely debilitating.
  • Does your age, educational level and training make it possible for you to transition to other kinds of work? Generally speaking, people who are younger and more educated have an easier time moving into new careers that can accommodate their conditions, unlike older, less-educated workers who have limited skills.
  • What is your residual functional capacity (RFC)? This evaluation looks at both how your condition or conditions affect your ability to function through everyday life, including your ability to do work-related activities like sitting, standing, walking, kneeling, lifting and carrying.

Navigating the SSDI application process can be complex, and qualified legal assistance can be invaluable – but don’t let the fact that you can’t see yourself in SSA’s listing of impairments stop you from applying for the benefits that you need.