What is the Social Security Disability Blue Book?

If you are applying for a disability benefit from the Social Security Administration (SSA), you will need to use the SSA’s Blue Book to find your medical condition. In the Blue Book listings there is a list of medical conditions that cause severe disabilities which qualify for disability benefits. As long as you can find your medical condition there shouldn’t be any delays being granted disability benefits.

What is the Blue Book?

The Blue Book lists impairments the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers are severe enough to stop someone from working. It describes the medical criteria which are used to determine if a person is eligible to receive disability benefits.

The SSA examiners assess applications for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which are the two disability benefit programs that the SSA is responsible for administering and for medical professionals who provide evidence to back up their patients’ disability claims.

If a condition can be found in the Blue Book, this means it meets the SSA's definition of what is a disability. This is an injury or illness that stops you from participating in work which is called "substantial gainful activity" for at least 12 months or that will likely end up in your death. Being diagnosed with a listing in the Blue Book isn’t an automatic qualification to receive SSDI or SSI.

The Blue Book also provides a detailed description of symptoms and test results which confirm your medical condition is severe enough to be disabling and the medical records and evidence which you need to provide to prove you are disabled. The Blue Book is divided into several sections.

Sections of the Blue Book

There are 14 sections in the Adult Listings in the Blue Book which contain the medical criteria that is applicable to the evaluation of impairments in adults who are 18 years and over and which could apply to the evaluation of impairments in children under the age of 18 years if the disease has a similar effect on adults and younger children. The sections are:


  • 1.00 Musculoskeletal Disorders
  • 2.00 Special Senses and Speech
  • 3.00 Respiratory Disorders
  • 4.00 Cardiovascular System
  • 5.00 Digestive System
  • 6.00 Genitourinary Disorders
  • 7.00 Hematological Disorders
  • 8.00 Skin Disorders
  • 9.00 Endocrine Disorders
  • 10.00 Congenital Disorders that Affect Multiple Body Systems
  • 11.00 Neurological Disorders
  • 12.00 Mental Disorders
  • 13.00 Cancer (Malignant Neoplastic Diseases)
  • 14.00 Immune System Disorders

The next section contains general information under the following sub-headings:

  • Program Description;
  • Definition of Disability;
  • Disability in Children;
  • What is a "Medically Determinable Impairment"?
  • The Disability Determination Process;
  • Social Security Field Offices;
  • State Disability Determination Services;
  • Office of Hearing Operations;
  • The Role of the Health Professional;
  • Claimant’s Own Medical Sources;
  • Consultative Examiners for the DDS;
  • Program Medical Consultants and Psychological Consultants;
  • Medical Experts;
  • Confidentiality of Records;
  • Questions and Answers about Social Security Disability Programs;
  • Who can get disability benefits under Social Security?
  • How is the disability determination made?
  • When do disability benefits start?
  • What can an individual do if he or she disagrees with the determination?
  • Can individuals receiving disability benefits or payments get Medicare or Medicaid coverage?
  • Can someone work and still receive disability benefits?

Evidentiary Requirements

Under this section in the Blue Book there are sub-headings describing the type of medical evidence required to support a disability benefits claim. This includes proof of the medical condition, the severity of the medical condition that affects the claimant’s ability to work, the claimant’s responsibilities to inform the SSA if his or her disability status has changed, the role of consultative examinations which determine the severity of the disability, the consultative examination report content and evidence relating to symptoms.

When assessing the claimant's pain or other symptoms, the SSA considers all of the above-mentioned factors. It is important that medical sources address these factors in the reports they provide.

Disability Claims Process Video Series

On the SSA’s website there is a link to the Disability Claims Process Video Series which helps you to understand the process of filing a disability benefits claim.

Revisions to Rules Regarding the Evolution of Medical Evidence

From March 27th 2017, the SSA revised its medical evidence rules. This includes redefining several key terms related to evidence and the use of acceptable medical sources (AMS), the acceptance of certain medical opinions and prior administrative medical findings as well as revising the rules about medical consultants (MC) and psychological consultants (PC).

How to Use the Blue Book for Your SSD Claim

You can find all the medical conditions that qualify for Social Security Disability benefits (SSD) in the Blue Book. Your medical condition needs to match the criteria for it found in the Blue Book. You can also find out from the Blue Book what medical evidence you need to support your claim for SSD benefits. If you have difficulties finding your medical condition your doctor may be able to help you understand it and locate your medical condition and help you gather the medical evidence required to support your SSD claim.

Get Help Understanding the SSA’s Blue Book

A lawyer can help you use the Blue Book. They may be able to understand if you meet a Blue Book listing or what medical evidence you need to provide to get approved for benefits. The attorney can assess your eligibility for being granted disability benefits, so you don’t waste any time. Get a Free Case Evaluation Today.

Additional Resources

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