List of Disabling Impairments for Social Security

Updated April 17, 2017

Social Security's specifies a list of impairments in its "Blue Book," describing conditions for 14 major body systems severe enough to prevent "substantial gainful activity" for adults. They also apply to people younger than 18 applying for Supplemental Security Income. Most of these conditions are, at the least, long-term and at the worst, permanent or fatal. Otherwise, the applicant must show that the impairment will last at least one year to receive disability benefits through either Social Security or SSI.

Social Security Disability Handbook

The Social Security Disability Handbook addresses diseases and conditions for 14 major body systems: respiratory, musculoskeletal, special senses and speech, cardiovascular, genitourinary, digestive, hemic and lymphatic, endocrine, skin, multiple body systems, mental, neurological, immune and neoplastic (cancer). Within each section, specific conditions are addressed, such as amputations, fractures and spinal disorders in the musculoskeletal section. The Handbook is available as a PDF download at However, the listings are not all inclusive; applicants can be evaluated through the "disability determination services" at a Social Security field office. Appeals must be made to the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review.

Listing of Impairments Part A

Part A of Social Security's listing of impairments includes criteria for evaluating impairments in adults. It also can apply to children if the disease processes have similar effects on both.

Listing of Impairments Part B

Part B contains additional criteria for evaluating children's impairments. Some Part A criteria do not adequately consider some effects of disease progression that occur either only during childhood or differ in children and adults. The criteria in Part B is used first to evaluate children, then if not applicable, Part A criteria are used.

Five-Step Evaluation Process

Applying criteria in the listing of impairments is the first in a multi-step evaluation process. If that doesn't establish whether the person is disabled, then the disability examiner uses a five-step evaluation process. This includes: 1) whether the person is performing "substantial gainful activity," 2) the medical severity of the impairment, 3) whether the impairment meets the one-year duration requirement and is one of the qualifying diseases or conditions listed in the Handbook, 4) consideration of remaining functional capacity and past relevant work, and 5) consideration of remaining functional capacity, as well as age, education and work experience, to see if adjustment to other work is possible.

*Listings include rheumatoid arthritis in musculoskeletal section, cystic fibrosis in the respiratory section and recurrent arrhythmia in the cardiovascular section.

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About the Author

Brian Gawley has been a daily and weekly newspaper reporter since 1989, working for the "Whitman County Gazette," "Columbia Basin Herald," "Grand Coulee Star," "Peninsula Daily News" and "Sequim Gazette." Gawley is a Washington State University Honors Program graduate with a bachelor's degree in communications and a national research paper award winner.