Social Security Medical Listing of Impairments

Here I will address the Social Security medical listing of impairments in detail. You can be found disabled at this step in the social security disability test of your SSDI claim if you meet or equal a listed impairment.  CFR Section 404.1520 explains “At the third step, we also consider the medical severity of your impairment(s). If you have an impairment(s) that meets or equals one of our listings...and meets the duration requirement, we will find that you are disabled.”  If you have a claim for SSD or SSI it is important to check if your medical conditions are on this list. However, just because the name of your medical condition is on the list does not mean you meet or equal a listed of impairment. You must read the listing that pertains to your particular impairment to see if you meet all the requirements of the listing. Many people will mistakenly think they meet a listing after reading it and comparing it to their symptoms. I must tell you, by design it is very difficult to meet or equal a listed impairment, so if you think you do it is important that you take a copy of the listing to your doctor and ask them if they feel you do. If your doctor believes you meet or equal a list of impairment then you should ask them for a report explaining which listing and why. The report should be supported by all the documentation required in the listing. Whether or not you meet a listing will ultimately be decided by the ALJ or other decision-maker at Social Security but if you have a report supported by all the documentation it greatly increases your chances of being found disabled at this step. If it is found that you equal one of the list of impairments you can also be found disabled at this step. Equaling a listed impairment is a bit more difficult to explain. You may have a medical condition that is not one of the impairments listed but may have similar symptoms, medical findings or effects on the individual that may be as severe as one of the list of impairments and a doctor may find that you equal one of the list of impairments. You may also have an impairment that is listed but perhaps you do not have all the requirements but your condition is just as severe as someone who does then a doctor in this instance can have the opinion you equal one of the list of impairments. Again, the ultimate decision on whether you equal a listed impairment is decided by the ALJ or decision-maker at Social Security but a doctor’s opinion that you equal a listing is still needed. SSR 96-5p explains even though the ALJ, or decision maker at SSA is the one who decides whether a claimant’s impairments meet or equal a listed impairment, the ALJ “looks to the treating source for medical evidence” to make this decision. Rule SSR 96-5p makes very clear a treating doctor’s opinion regarding meeting or equaling a listed impairment must be considered even though it is a decision for the ALJ to make.  The rule continues, “However, opinions from any medical source on issues reserved to the Commissioner must never be ignored.  The adjudicator is required to evaluate all evidence in the case record that may have a bearing on the determination or decision of disability, including opinions from medical sources about issues reserved to the Commissioner.  If the case record contains an opinion from a medical source on an issue reserved to the Commissioner, the adjudicator must evaluate all the evidence in the case record to determine the extent to which the opinion is supported by the record.”  Your treating doctor is in most cases the person most qualified to make an opinion and provide other evidence on whether you meet or equal a listing.  This is acknowledged by SSR 96-5p, the decision maker  “looks to the treating source for medical evidence with which he or she can determine whether an individual’s impairment meets a listing.”  I should also note there are certain medical conditions under the recently enacted compassionate allowance that are an automatic disability and if you have one of these impairments you are entitled to a very quick SSD or SSI decision from the Social Security Administration.

The medical listing of impairments is separated into categories of similar medical conditions. The categories are musculoskeletal, special senses and speech, respiratory system, cardiovascular system, digestive system, genitourinary impairments, hematological disorders, skin disorders, neurological disorders, mental disorders, malignant neoplastic disease, and immune system disorders. So to find your medical conditions you should look in the category you feel your condition might fall under and if you don't find it there check other categories that it might be under. There is also a medical listing of impairments for children this listing has categories as well that are slightly different from the adult listings. The medical conditions and requirements can and usually are different from those in the adult listing.

What is important to remember is that even though it is important to check the listings even if your medical condition(s) do not meet or equal one of the medical listing of impairments you may still be found disabled in a Social Security disability or SSI claim. If you do not meet or equal a listed impairment you simply move to the next step of the process. However, if you are able to win at this step in the process then you do not continue to the next step and your age, education and work background are not considered.  Even if you think you meet a listing and have a doctor's opinion that supports your belief you must still know the next two steps in the process because Social Security may disagree.