How to Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits with the Blue Book

Submitted by Eric on

Social Security disability benefits provide financial assistance for millions of Americans each year. In order to qualify, applicants must show that their disability is severe enough to prevent them from working or living independently.

Because of Social Security’s in-depth application process, it can be tricky to figure out how to qualify. Below, we will show you how you can measure your medical qualifications by comparing your diagnosis to the Blue Book.

How the Blue Book Works

Disability applicants qualify as disabled when they can show that their condition:

  • Is severe enough to prevent them from working or functioning normally
  • Is expected to last longer than 12 months or result in death.

In order to evaluate these requirements, the Social Security Administration (SSA) created the Blue Book, which lists all disorders that can qualify to benefits. These disorders are broken up into two segments (one for adults and one for children) with each segment containing sections for different disorder types.

Depending on your condition, the Blue Book will detail exactly what symptoms must be present in order for you to qualify for benefits. Before applying, you can visit the SSA’s website to compare your diagnosis to the online Blue Book.

For example, say you are applying for benefits for coronary heart disease. This is listed under Section 4.00 “Cardiovascular - Adult” under subsection 4.04: “Ischemic heart disease”. According to this listing, applicants can qualify with coronary heart disease with an angiography test that shows the narrowing of a main coronary artery by more than 50%.

If angiography test results do not show this result, those with coronary heart disease can still qualify if it is shown that their condition severely limits their ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities of daily living (getting from place to place, cooking, cleaning, dressing, etc.)

How To Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits With the Blue Book

Understanding Confusing Requirements

Many disorders contain a variety of terms and phrases that are difficult to understand. The requirements are written this way to make sure that applicants are reviewed using the same exact, specific medical assessments. However, this can make it difficult for an applicant who is not well-versed in medical terminology.

For example, many musculoskeletal disorders (amputations, deep fractures, spinal disorders, etc.) discuss “effective ambulation” in their Blue Book listings. In most cases, applicants are found disabled if their condition is severe enough to keep them from ambulating effectively.

However, when simply put, this term just refers to a person’s ability to walk. Applicants who are unable to use prosthesis, who require the use of both hands to move around unassisted, or who cannot safely sustain foot travel are considered “unable to ambulate effectively”.

In some cases, Blue Book requirements can seem vague or hard to gauge. This can also make it difficult to determine whether or not you qualify. For example, many neurological disorders measure disability by referring to a person’s ability to function in five different ways:

  • Physical functioning,
  • Understanding, remembering, or applying information,
  • Interacting with others,
  • Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace
  • Adapting or managing oneself.

Those who show a “marked limitation” in one or more of these areas often demonstrate a more severe disability — and thus, a stronger need for disability benefits. For any disability with these requirements, you can view the definitions of each category at the top of the corresponding Blue Book section.

For instance, if you are unsure whether or not your epilepsy qualifies as causing “marked limitations” on your ability to concentrate and think properly, you can refer to the top of Section 11: “Neurological Disorders” under subsection 11.00G3b(iii).

Speaking with Your Physician

While referring to the Blue Book on your own can be helpful, no one is better equipped to help you with your diagnosis than your physician. Before applying, it is always best to consult with your physician and compare your condition to its corresponding listing in the Blue Book.

Physician & the Blue Book

Your physician will understand the medical terms used and be able to conduct whatever tests/assessments may be necessary to include on your application. In addition, physicians can point you in the right direction when looking for other resources you can explore throughout your disability application process. Your physicians medical expertise can help identify your condition more rapidly, allowing you to form a stronger claim quicker!

Additional Resources

Blog comments

Anetta Story (not verified)

To be more complexed and

To be more complexed and direct about my condition is that during most of my teen years i have been in many abrusive relationships i mean hit so hard upside my head i became disoriented and confused with gulf ball knots across my forehead i had to go to the hospital to make sure that those knots werent blood clots.had to have over night to make sure i didnt go into convulsions or worse.there were other times i passed out for about 5minutes.another time i was hit side of my temper i got weak and nauseated i just treated it with an ice pack and took some ibruprofen and tried to stay awake and alert.later on in my 30's i started experiencing migrans i couldnt stand the light to be on nor sunlight. I had to be in a guiet dark room until i improved.i went to my physician for it he gave me 2 shots and told me that the shot was going help me relax and get some rest so thats what it did. I felt a lot better after not being bothered and rested he prescribed some pain medication that were directed to take only when i needed them.some months later i developed a siece between my legs upon the right side of my lips of my vagina full of pulse and blood the doctor lazed it and placed a drainer under the skin of it but unfortunately it reappeared in the same spot. this time i had to have surgical removed it was a success.later on in the years i thinl it was back in 2012 i accidently overdose on my medication. i can exsplain how that the time my oldest daughter is gay and they both were on drugs which led to a lot of stealing lying and confrontations between the two of them. she even jumped me but i had to put her in her place that was going on my son whose the oldest of the two girls,was in a car chase by police i aloud my imagination to get the best of me then,i heard that my son and his friend another guy was armed and dangerous??? I just knew the police and my son and his friend would probably end up in a shootout now my nerves are a wreck and my blood pressure has reached hits peep then anxiety set in. So the next thing that came to mind was i forgot to take my medication that day?? So i got my depression pills that were for anxiety too and my head was banging so i took 2 pain pills as well. before i could relax and let the pills to go to work. I got an emergency phone call!!! My cousin lunda had to be rushed to the ER she had a massive heart attack but they were trying to recover her but minutes later she died....that done it!! I felt very sleepy and i was in and out of consciousness then they told me that i became unresponsive next i was heading to the ER the same night.they said i had to sleep it off because they couldnt pump it out of me because i had too much in me.i was told that everything was shutting down.all my family was there praying for improvement and by the Grace of GOD I PULLED THROUGH!! Thank you JESUS...THERES MORE TO TELL BUT WE CAN TALK ABOUT IT LATER IF IT WILL HELP THE CASE... THANK YOU FOR LEANING ME YOUR TIME AND ATTENTION..HOPEFULLY I HEAR FROM YOU SOON SO BE BLESSED.

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 23:02 Permalink

In reply to by Anetta Story (not verified)

Hi Annetta,

Hi Annetta,
I'm sorry to hear about all that! It's good that you pulled through. Hang in there!

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 13:02 Permalink
Alexandra Console (not verified)

In reply to by Anetta Story (not verified)

Hello, I am living in texas

Hello, I am living in texas and in the middle of my disability process... or journey shall I say. Having read your story, there are a couple instances where I can relate, and let me say, i'm very empathetic to your situation and what you have gone through. YOU ARE A SURVIVOR! I have a couple questions and I think that you might be the perfect person to shine some light and give me the correct answers or insight. Everyone else just kind of dances around the situation. So, at 16 I dated a guy and dabbled in drugs with him, (I was young and wouldn't say stupid, but very naive). I started snorting heroine, at the time that "cheese" was all the rage in my area. I blindly used with him for a few months and then became physically addicted to it, so I went to treatment and have been taking suboxen for about 4-5 years now. I am mentally disabiled with ADD/ADHD, anxiety, depression, and ptsd from sexual traume. socially just cannot fit in, or seem to be able to complete any tasks assigned to me. So I am applying for disability and I need to know how you think my doctor should word his letter. I don't want them to think I have a substance abuse problem, because that's really what the medicine is for, well, pain management, but i don't have any documented pain problems, so that's not going to help at all. also, i had an overdose as well as an attempted suicide, so how do I go about wording that, because i'm afraid that I will get denied and I need this assistence in my life so very bad and I can't find any answers. thanks.

Wed, 08/15/2018 - 19:01 Permalink
Just me (not verified)

In reply to by Alexandra Console (not verified)

You will get denied if you

You will get denied if you tell them it's for substance abuse

Wed, 01/22/2020 - 19:52 Permalink

In reply to by Just me (not verified)

Hi There,

Hi There,

You cannot qualify due to a substance abuse. If you are experiencing a disabling condition that is in the Blue Book that is caused by substance abuse, you may qualify. This includes conditions like HIV, liver failure, heart failure, etc.

Fri, 01/24/2020 - 14:28 Permalink
marcelina (not verified)

What if I was trying to go

What if I was trying to go back to work from home .but I was fired for being disabled. And then a mild stroke

Sun, 12/03/2017 - 02:13 Permalink

In reply to by marcelina (not verified)

Hi Marcelina,

Hi Marcelina,
You may want to contact the SSA regarding this, you can get in touch with them by calling them at 1-800-772-1213.

Mon, 12/04/2017 - 09:41 Permalink
Toni (not verified)

Can an attorney help when

Can an attorney help when social security consistantly & continuosly make blaring mistakes that has put my physical, mental, and inailiable right to a standard that to life is jeapordized.

Thu, 12/19/2019 - 14:50 Permalink

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