Types of Disability Impairments

Disability Impairments

Meeting the Social Security Definition of Disability

A surprising number of conditions meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability. This “Listing of Impairments” is broken down into “Adults” and “Children” lists and then further categorized by the type of impairment, such as Respiratory System Impairments or Mental Disorders.

Even if the particular condition you are suffering from is not listed, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Applications are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and benefits are often awarded because multiple impairments, when considered together, meet the SSA’s definition of disability.

Listing of Impairments

The Listing of Impairments describes impairments that are considered severe enough to prevent an individual from performing activities associated with gainful employment or, in the case of children under 18, debilitating enough to cause severe and marked functional limitations. The conditions are currently divided into 14 categories, according to body system:

  • Musculoskeletal System Impairments
  • Special Senses and Speech Disorders
  • Respiratory System Impairments
  • Cardiovascular System Impairments
  • Digestive System Impairments
  • Genitourinary Disorders
  • Hematological Disorders
  • Endocrine Disorders
  • Neurological Disorders
  • Skin Disorders
  • Mental Disorders
  • Cancer (Malignant Neoplastic Diseases)
  • Congenital Disorders that Affect Multiple Body Systems
  • Immune System Disorders

Most of the impairments on the list are permanent or are expected to result in death, while some include a specific statement of duration. For all other listings, evidence must be provided that shows the impairment has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.

Blood Disorders

Many hematological disorders (blood disorders) qualify for benefits under the Social Security Disability program, including:

  • sickle cell disease
  • chronic thrombocytopenia
  • chronic anemia
  • hereditary telangiectasia
  • disorders of bone marrow failure
  • myelofibrosis


Many adults living with an AIDS diagnosis qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. Additionally, children diagnosed with AIDS/HIV may qualify for Supplemental Security Income, provided their family meets the income limitations. Proof of infection is required before benefits will be awarded. Accepted medical tests include DNA detection tests, antibody tests, viral cultures, and other tests suggested by your doctor.

Mental Disorders

A variety of disabling mental conditions qualify for SSD benefits. These include organic disorders, pervasive developmental disorders (including autism), substance addiction disorders, psychotic disorders, personality disorders, somatoform disorders, intellectual disability, affective disorders, and anxiety-related disorders.

For instance, if you are suffering from a disabling anxiety disorder, which is fairly common, you may be eligible to receive benefits. The severity of the symptoms varies from one person to another, so some individuals will qualify while others will not. If you have been diagnosed with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), panic disorder, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), social anxiety, or general anxiety disorder, you may be eligible for SSD benefits.


Some cancer diagnoses result in an automatic qualification for SSD benefits. Other forms of cancer qualify only after the disease has progressed to a certain stage. Additionally, certain treatments that prevent you from working for more than 12 months would make you eligible for benefits regardless of the type of cancer you have.

COPD and Congestive Heart Failure

If you have been diagnosed with COPD or congestive heart failure, you may be eligible to receive Social Security Disability benefits. The approval will depend on the severity of your symptoms and how they affect your ability to work. To receive benefits for congestive heart failure, you must provide documented medical proof that you have continuing severe heart failure, even with medication.

Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease is a serious impairment that often makes it impossible for the individual to work for an extended period of time, according to the Social Security Administration. It is classified as a disorder of the digestive system, and to qualify for benefits you must have received a definitive diagnosis. Additionally, you must have at least one listed complication such as:

  • pain and cramping in your abdominal mass
  • significant weight loss
  • bowel obstruction
  • untreatable anemia

Let an Experienced Attorney Help You Through the Complicated Benefits Process

Significant health problems, such as diabetes, psoriasis, migraine headaches, and seizure disorders may qualify you to receive Social Security Disability benefits. Every individual case is different, and each requires that proper medical documentation be provided.

The criteria in the Listing of Impairments apply to only one step in a multi-step evaluation process. The absence of listing-level impairment does not necessarily mean an individual is not disabled. It simply means that the adjudicator must move on to the next step of the application process and apply other rules in order to reach a decision about benefits eligibility.

The best way to begin a disability claim is to consult with an experienced disability attorney at Thurswell Law. We can help you maneuver through this complicated process and obtain the benefits you are entitled to. Call us toll free at 248-354-2222, and book a no-obligation consultation today.

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