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What is the Social Security Disability Blue Book?


People seeking Social Security Disability benefits must meet strict medical criteria. As any Social Security Disability lawyers Tennessee know, one resource the Social Security Administration uses to evaluate disability is the book Disability Evaluation Under Social Security, or the "Blue Book." This book contains a listing of impairments that are automatically considered disabling if they meet specified requirements.

Common disabling conditions

The Blue Book does not include every disabling condition. However, the list contains the impairments that are most often considered severe enough to prevent a person from working gainfully. The Blue Book also provides information on the disability claim process and the standards medical evidence supporting a claim must meet.

The Blue Book contains separate listings for adult and childhood impairments. Fourteen categories of adult impairments, which range from musculoskeletal disorders to neurological conditions, are recognized. Each condition in the book is accompanied by a list of symptoms or other effects the condition must cause to be considered disabling.

The Blue Book is written for medical professionals who are providing documentation to support disability claims. As Social Security Disability lawyers in Tennessee can attest, the book is highly technical. Still, perusing the relevant listings can help applicants understand what evidence they should use to support their claims.

Claiming disability benefits

The SSA only awards disability benefits for conditions expected to last over a year or result in mortality. If a condition meets these criteria, an applicant may qualify for benefits in a few ways:

  • Meeting the terms of a listing - if this is the case, the SSA does not evaluate the applicant's ability to work. Instead, the SSA presumes the condition is disabling enough to prevent gainful employment.
  • "Equaling" a listing- if a person's symptoms are distinct from those listed but equal in overall severity, the SSA may find that the person "equals" the listing. Similarly, the SSA may consider any secondary conditions a person suffers and weigh the cumulative effects of those conditions.
  • Receiving a medical-vocational allowance - if a condition does not meet Blue Book terms or appear in the listings, the applicant may qualify for a medical-vocational allowance. When awarding an allowance, the SSA directly evaluates how the condition, along with the applicant's age, education and work experience, affect the applicant's ability to work gainfully.

Applicants who qualify medically for disability benefits must meet non-medical criteria. Applicants must have adequate earnings records, and in 2015, most applicants cannot earn over $1,090 a month. Still, for most people, establishing medical eligibility is the most challenging aspect of the claim process. Reviewing the Blue Book listings with the assistance of Social Security Disability lawyers in Tennessee can help SSD applicants support their claims more effectively.

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