The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a medical guide, known as the Blue Book, to determine whether or not a condition is severe enough to warrant disability payments. The Blue Book is also often referred to as the Listing of Impairments.
Each condition in the Blue Book lists specific criteria and symptoms that you must have to be approved.
However, with thousands of variations of conditions, it is impossible to list them all in one place. Therefore, only the most common and severe impairments are listed in the Blue Book.
While there are well over one hundred conditions covered in the Blue Book, many applicants can’t precisely meet any of them despite being severely disabled.
What does it mean to meet a listing in the Blue Book?
The various conditions listed in the Blue Book are deemed severe enough by the SSA to prevent you from functioning in a work setting.
If you have an illness that is listed in the Blue Book and you meet the criteria listed under that condition, you are said to “meet the listing” and will be considered disabled regardless of your education or work history.
For example, skin cancer is listed in section 13.03 of the Blue Book. There are many possible stages of skin cancer. The Blue Book listing includes sarcoma or carcinoma of the skin which has spread, or metastasized, beyond the regional lymph nodes.
It also includes carcinoma that has invaded under the skin, such as the skeletal muscle or bone. If this is the case for you, you will have “met” the disability listing and are likely to be approved for disability benefits.
What does it mean to equal a listing in the Blue Book?
Many individuals will not meet a listing exactly, but are still entirely disabled. For example, someone might experience a variety of symptoms from several illnesses that match the severity of one of the Blue Book listings.
If your condition does not match a listing exactly, it will need to be determined if your impairment is similar enough to the severity of another listed impairment to be considered “equal.”
There are several ways that your condition may be considered “equal” to another listing:
- Your condition is not specifically listed in the Blue Book, but is similar in severity to another listing. For example, you might get frequent migraines, which is not a condition that is listed in the Blue Book. However, the effects of a migraine might be similar to non-convulsive seizures, which are listed in the neurological section 11.03 of the Blue Book. If you can prove that your condition is similar, or equal, in severity to another condition, you might be awarded disability benefits.
- You have several “milder” conditions, which when put together are much more severe than each one alone. For example, you might have arthritis in your knees, high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes. While none of the conditions alone meets the criteria for disability, the combination of the three illnesses may be severe enough to “equal” another listing.
If your condition is not listed in the Blue Book, or if you suffer from a combination of conditions, it is possible that the severity of your illness may equal that of a listed impairment. As such, you would be considered disabled.
Should I hire an attorney or an advocate to help me prove that my condition meets or equals a listing in the Blue Book?
The Social Security Listing of Impairments, or the Blue Book, is a comprehensive guide to conditions that would grant you disability benefits. While very thorough, it is also extremely complicated to read if you do not have a medical background.
An experienced attorney or disability advocate understands the Blue Book and has the resources to seek a better understanding if needed. As such, he or she can help to ensure that you have all of the medical evidence required to meet or equal a disability listing.