Slepian Smith, PLLC

SSDI and SSI: What are the listings?

Federal law specifically defines "disability" for purposes of eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income, referred to as SSDI and SSI, respectively. As we have blogged about before, the Social Security Administration (SSA), uses a five-step process to determine whether a claimant meets the definition.

Listing of impairments

At the third step, SSA looks at a claimant's physical or mental impairment or combination of impairments to see if it meets or equals a condition in its Listing of Impairments. The medical conditions in the listings are so severe that the SSA automatically finds a claimant disabled if they meet all of the requirements of a specific listing. The agency also can find that a claimant's impairment "equals" an impairment if it is similar and has equivalent disabling intensity.

The listings are organized into 14 groups by type of disorder:

  • Musculoskeletal system
  • Special senses and speech
  • Respiratory disorders
  • Cardiovascular system
  • Digestive system
  • Genitourinary disorders
  • Hematological disorders
  • Skin disorders
  • Endocrine disorders
  • Congenital disorders that affect multiple body systems
  • Neurological disorders
  • Mental disorders
  • Cancer (malignant neoplastic diseases)
  • Immune system disorders

Each group of listings has a long introduction that lays out specific requirements for analyzing the impact of the conditions in that category. Then, each group contains numbered listings that specify the requirements for each one.

For example, listing 12.10 for autism spectrum disorder requires that the claimant meet both of these criteria:

  • Medical documentation of both "[q]ualitative deficits in verbal ... [and] nonverbal communication, and social interaction" plus "[s]ignificantly restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities"
  • "Extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two ... areas of mental functioning":
    • Understanding, remembering or applying information
    • Interacting with other people
    • Concentrating, persisting or maintaining "pace"
    • Adapting or managing oneself

Legal representation is helpful

If a claimant at step three meets or equals a listing, SSA finds them disabled for purposes of SSDI and SSI. If not, there are two more steps of analysis. Step four asks if the claimant could return to past work and step five looks at several factors to see if the claimant could do any work in significant numbers in the national economy.

Involving an attorney at the earliest stage of the process is helpful so that counsel can help develop the medical record as needed for accurate analysis at step three, determining whether the claimant meets or equals a listing.

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