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A disability, as defined by the Social Security Administration (SSA), is a “physical or mental impairment that prohibits substantial gainful activity and has lasted or is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death.”
The SSA uses this definition in part to establish eligibility for Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. However, this definition applies to a broad number of conditions and ailments.
Following, the Cincinnati disability lawyers at Young, Reverman & Mazzei provide an overview of impairments covered under SSD and SSI. If you need help applying for disability benefits or appealing a denied claim, please call us today at 800-721-1678 or contact us online for a free consultation. Our attorneys welcome clients from Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.
Impairments Covered by Social Security Disability
The Social Security Administration requires that adults over the age of 18 who are applying for disability benefits are evaluated for eligibility using the approved listing of impairments. In most cases, an individual will undergo medical evaluation and an application process to ensure that they have a qualifying impairment in one of the categories below:
- Neurological disorders
- Musculoskeletal system disorders
- Cardiovascular system disorders
- Respiratory disorders
- Digestive system disorders
- Genitourinary disorders
- Special senses and speech impairments
- Hematological disorders
- Skin disorders
- Endocrine disorders
- Congenital disorders that affect multiple body systems
- Mental disorders
- Immune system disorders
It’s important to note that there are additional requirements in each impairment category to qualify for eligibility, and not every condition that falls under these categories is considered severe enough to garner SSD or SSI benefits. Understanding the types of conditions and symptoms that are most frequently covered by SSD benefits can help you determine whether or not you should apply for SSD benefits.
Under the Social Security Act, individuals with neurological disorders (disorders affecting the brain and its function) must experience limitations despite medical treatments, including medication and/or surgery. Conditions that may be accepted for benefits include but are not limited to:
- Cerebral palsy
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Ongoing coma
Each of these conditions affects the brain’s function, as well as how it coordinates a person’s movements. A person must be able to prove significant limitations as a result of their neurological condition to be eligible for these disability benefits.
Musculoskeletal conditions affect muscles, bones, joints, ligaments, etc. These conditions must cause major dysfunction to qualify for SSD benefits. Some examples include:
- Hereditary conditions like Marfan syndrome
- Spine disorders like degenerative disc disease or spinal fracture
- Severe fractures
- Soft tissue injuries, such as burns or severe lacerations
The conditions must strongly limit activity and function in these body systems.
Cardiovascular conditions may qualify for benefits, especially in cases where it impacts major arteries and overall heart function. Examples of cardiac conditions eligible for SSD benefits include:
- Congenital heart disease
- Coronary artery disease
- Severe arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms)
- Heart transplants
- Aortic disease or dilation
In each of these cases, overall heart function is limited, which impacts virtually every other system in the body and can put a person’s life at risk.
Affecting the lungs, respiratory conditions may also qualify a person for benefits. To be eligible, however, the disorder must be severe and impede regular activities. Examples of respiratory disorders include:
- Severe asthma
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Cystic fibrosis
- Lung disease
- Ongoing need for oxygen supplementation or bypass
The respiratory condition needs to result in obstruction or restriction of the lungs in order to qualify for SSD benefits.
Digestive System Disorders
Because the digestive tract is so extensive, a digestive disorder often entails a number of organs within the body. SSD-eligible digestive disorders may include:
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Liver failure caused by cirrhosis, hepatitis C, etc.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Pancreatic disease
Extensive imaging and a trail of records documenting continuing symptoms are often necessary to qualify someone with a digestive disorder for SSD. The condition must also be found to be life-threatening and prevent you from working full-time.
Genitourinary disorders are disorders that affect the genitals and urological organs within the body. These conditions can include:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Conditions or injuries that result in the need for dialysis
- Cancer of the bladder, prostate or genitals
Doctors reports, lab results, dialysis and transfusion treatments, and ongoing records of care will all be needed to show how your genitourinary condition affects your life.
Special Senses and Speech Impairments
Conditions that affect the five senses fall under this category. Some examples of sense and speech impairment include:
- Blindness or visual deficits
- Deafness or hardness of hearing
- Speech difficulties, whether congenital or acquired
In each case, the sense impairment must prove to inhibit daily activities and a person’s ability to garner meaningful employment. These conditions may be what someone is born with, or one that was acquired as the result of trauma.
Blood disorders can limit someone’s ability to work. SSD benefits may be awarded to individuals with blood disorders including:
- Hemophilia and other clotting disorders
- Anemia (a lack of blood)
- Bone marrow disease
- Thrombocytopenia (low platelets)
Individuals who need a bone marrow or stem cell transplant may also qualify for SSD benefits under the right circumstances.
Many skin disorders can impair an individual’s ability to work and be physically debilitating. Benefits for skin disorders are often awarded to people with severe burns, but other conditions may include:
- Chronic skin infections
- Photosensitivity (light sensitivity or sun allergies)
- Psoriasis or dermatitis
- Severe acne (hidradenitis suppurative)
- Malignant skin cancer
As you can imagine, these skin disorders can interrupt daily function and, in some severe cases, may be life-threatening.
Hormones within the body regulate its everyday function. Without this proper regulation, a number of conditions can arise. A few disorders that may be SSD-eligible include:
- Diabetes (type 1 or type 2) and its complications
- Thyroid conditions
- Pituitary gland disorders
- Parathyroid gland dysfunction
- Cushing syndrome
There are a number of symptoms and related conditions that fall under endocrine impairments, which means extensive medical records and evaluations will be requested in order to apply for benefits under this category.
These conditions are either hereditary or present at birth from a mutation. Congenital disorders that may qualify you for SSD support include:
- Down syndrome and Non-Mosaic Down syndrome
- Spina bifida
- Congenital heart disease
- Fragile X syndrome
- Chromosomal abnormalities (i.e., Klinefelter’s syndrome)
Each individual’s congenital disorder may present differently, which will impact an SSD eligibility ruling.
Over 3 million people draw on Social Security Disability benefits for mental disorders, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. That makes this category of impairments the largest of all SSD beneficiaries. Conditions that fall under the listing of impairments may include:
- Autism spectrum disorders
- Severe anxiety and panic disorders
- Manic depression
- Manic and bipolar disorders
- Alzheimer’s disease or dementia
- Tourette syndrome
- Borderline personality disorder
Of course, the stigma around mental illness and the difficulty in clear diagnosis and treatment can make eligibility difficult. It’s important to provide documented care and reports of ongoing symptoms. There are 11 categories for mental disorders covered by SSD, which can help you determine what to include in your SSD claim.
Over 1.7 million new cases of cancer are diagnosed each year, and it is the second-largest leading cause of death in the U.S. When it comes to SSD benefits for cancer, all forms of the disease can be considered for coverage. The entire list of malignant cancers that may be eligible for benefits is extensive, which means each case is considered based on:
- The origin of the cancer
- Extent of growth and spread (involvement)
- Prognosis after treatment
- Treatment used
While a person may be eligible for SSD for a particular type of cancer, another person may not. This is a highly individualized category, which requires attention and in-depth record-keeping to ensure a smooth and fast application process.
Immune System Disorders
SSD-eligible immune system disorders must fall under one of three categories:
- Autoimmune disorders
- Immune deficiency disorders
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection
Autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis or Sjögren syndrome may qualify for SSD, as may immune deficiency disorders like hepatitis or leukemia. Of course, HIV and AIDS are also common qualifiers, as they can impact a person’s life drastically. These conditions all cause frequent infections, affect multiple body systems, and are often life-threatening.
Experienced Legal Help for Those Seeking Disability Benefits
With this extensive list of potentially eligible conditions, it’s easy to imagine how the Social Security disability application process can be overwhelming. If you’re seeking help with your initial SSD application or you’ve been denied and are seeking an SSD or SSI appeal, a disability lawyer can help.
While you are not required to have legal representation to seek Social Security Disability benefits or appeal a denied claim, a disability attorney can relieve some of the stress and improve your chances for approval. With our extensive experience in disability law and the SSA appeals process, we can help you thoroughly document your initial application or fight for benefits if your claim is rejected.
We’re proud to help disabled individuals from the greater Cincinnati and Dayton areas, as well as those from northern Kentucky and eastern Indiana. Please see our locations page for a complete list of our offices and directions.