What Illnesses Qualify to Receive Social Security Disability?

Updated July 19, 2017

You're sick. You can't work. Do you qualify for Social Security disability? "Disability under Social Security for an adult is based on your inability to work because of a medical condition," states Social Security Online. This means you can't work, period. Social Security only pays for full disability, not partial or short-term disability. The following is a list of some conditions covered by Social Security disability.

Respiratory System

Respiratory system categories include chronic pulmonary insufficiency, asthma, cystic fibrosis, pneumonoconiosis, bronchiectasis, sleep-related breathing disorders and lung transplant. In all cases, you must be receiving ongoing treatment for your particular disorder. advises that, "since your Social Security Disability or ssi claim will be evaluated completely on the basis of your medical records, the best advice is to get regular, ongoing medical treatment."

Much of the time, respiratory system disability claims are based on the evaluation of spirometric pulmonary function tests, which tell evaluators the severity of the impairment. You can find a description of these impairments, along with a list of values necessary to indicate severe impairment, at Social Security Online (click on the link in the Resource section).

Immune System Disorders

Social Security disability evaluates immune disorders according to the cause of the dysfunction in the immune system. "The dysfunction may be due to problems in antibody production, impaired cell mediated immunity, a combined type of antibody/cellular deficiency, impaired phagocytes, or complement deficiency," explains Social Security Online. These disorders usually present with numerous and/or unusual infections, inflammation, fever, fatigue and pain. Some of the most common immune system disorders are lupus, HIV and inflammatory arthritis.

Cardiovascular System

Impairments in the functioning of the heart or circulatory system fall under this category. Specific diseases include chronic heart failure, recurrent arrhythmias, congenital heart disease and heart transplant. Once again, evaluation is based on medical records that show the duration of suffering from the disease, as well as the severity.

When evaluating cardiovascular impairments, Social Security Online states, "...cardiovascular impairments (evaluations are) based on symptoms, signs, laboratory findings, response to a regimen of prescribed treatment, and functional limitations."

Mental Disorders

Like every other impairment, mental disorders are evaluated based on medical documentation. Impairments falling under this category include schizophrenic paranoid and other psychotic disorders, mental retardation, and anxiety-related disorders.


Social Security disability extends to children under the age of 18. The list of diseases is very similar to those of adults. However, "adult listings do not give appropriate consideration to the particular disease process in childhood," according to Social Security Online. This means that impairments are evaluated by a different set of criteria than that for adults.

Growth impairment is one of the additional diseases included for children. Social Security Online explains that, "impairment of growth may be disabling in itself or it may be an indicator of the severity of the impairment due to a specific disease process." Again, evaluation of this impairment depends on well-kept records, including the length of the child at birth and a history of three other height measurements.

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