The Census Bureau reports that roughly one out of every five Americans is living with some sort of disability. Considering the total population of the country, that adds up to approximately 58 million individuals. Among them, millions receive monthly disability benefits through the SSA, or Social Security Administration. Generally, to be eligible for Social Security Benefits, your medical condition must be listed in the SSA’s List of Impairments, or Blue Book. However, what if your health condition is not included in the “Blue Book,” or Listing of Impairments? Can you still qualify? Our experienced Fayetteville, AR Social Security Disability lawyer Ken Kieklak looks at what options are available if your condition is not included.
What is the SSA Listing of Impairments?
In order to qualify for benefits, it is not “enough” to have a health condition: that condition must be so severe that it constitutes a disability which stops you from working. In other words, a medical issue which is mild and easily managed is unlikely to qualify you.
In order to determine whether or not your issue can be categorized as severe, the SSA uses a reference called the Listing of Impairments, sometimes referred to as “the Blue Book.” The Listing lays out guidelines for evaluating many different disabilities. However, it does not list every possible physical, medical, or mental condition. So, what happens if your disability is not mentioned in the Listing?
How does SSA’s Blue Book impact disabilities in Arkansas?
Before discussing what is not included in SSA’s Blue Book, it is important to understand precisely what it means to be included in the List of Impairments. Basically, the conditions that are listed in the Blue Book are deemed by the SSA to be severe enough to prevent an individual from functioning in a work setting.
Meeting a listing means that your physical or mental condition is listed in the Blue Book and your symptoms meet the criteria listed under the specific condition. For instance, skin cancer is listing under section 13 of the Blue Book. However, there are many possible stages and forms of skin cancer. The listing specifically includes carcinoma of the skin, which has spread beyond the regional lymph nodes. Additionally, it lists carcinoma that metastasized under the person’s skin, including their bone or skeletal muscle. Therefore, to qualify under this listing for skin cancer, your condition will have to reflect the listed criteria.
Your Condition Could Equal a Listing in the Blue Book
It is not uncommon for a person’s disability to not exactly meet a listing, yet still, be entirely disabling. For instance, you could be experiencing a number of symptoms from a severe condition that closely matches the severity of an impairment listed in the Blue Book.
If a condition does not match a listed impairment, the SSA will have to determine if your condition is similar enough in severity to another listed impairment to be considered equal. Our experienced Arkansas Social Security Disability attorney will help you compile the required medical evidence necessary to establish that your impairment is similar in severity to a listed condition.
There are various ways to establish that an unlisted condition is similar to an impairment included in the Blue Book. For example, suffering from migraines is not an uncommon condition. However, some individuals experience migraines that are debilitating in their intensity and frequency. Unfortunately, migraines are not listed as an eligible condition in the Blue Book. Nonetheless, the overall effects and impact of severe migraines could be similar to a condition that is listed, such as non-convulsive seizures. If the medical documentation and evidence substantiate your claim, you could be awarded Social Security Disability benefits.
It is also possible to suffer from several milder conditions that, when their symptoms are combined, are much more severe. For instance, a person could suffer from obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and have chronic arthritis in their hands. While, individually, none of these conditions meet the criteria of a single condition listed in the Blue Book, the combination of all conditions could be severe enough that your illness is severe and disabling enough to equal another listing.
My Impairment in Arkansas Does Not Match or Equal a Listing in the Blue Book
There are disabling conditions and impairments that are not listed in the Blue Book and whose symptoms do not readily equal a listed disability. For people who have a condition listed in the Blue Book or one that is equivalent to a listed impairment, the application process is much easier than for someone suffering from an unlisted condition.
In cases where your condition is not listed or your combination of symptoms is not equal, you could still be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. If you are in this situation, it is critical to have a knowledgeable Fayetteville Social Security Disability attorney representing your interests.
As state above, the SSA Blue Book does not have a listing for migraine headaches. However, it is possible to suffer migraines that are severe enough to limit your ability to function to the point where you are unable to work. Because migraines are not listed, you will be required to provide sufficient and convincing medical evidence of your condition’s impact.
One of the criteria for disability benefits is suffering from a condition that prevents the applicant from engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA). SGA, according to the SSA, is the ability to earn a significant enough amount of money to be able to support yourself. As of 2021, the SGA amount for a single, non-blind individual is $1,310. This means you will have to demonstrate, through medical documentation, that your condition makes earning $1,310 a month impossible. If you are capable of earning more than the SGA threshold, you will not be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits – even if your condition was listed in the Blue Book.
Qualifying for Disabilities With a Medical-Vocational Allowance in Arkansas
As seen above, if your condition is severe enough that it impedes your ability to engage in SGA, you could still qualify for benefits even if your impairment is not listed in the Blue Book. You may be able to have your claim approved based on something called medical-vocational allowance.
A claims examiner from Arkansas Disability Determination will forward your application to an SSA medical professional. Your claim will be thoroughly evaluated, including:
- Medical Documentation
- Doctor Notes
- RFC (Residual Functional Capacity)
Essentially, “Residual Functional Capacity” is an elaborate way of phrasing the question, “What can you do? What sort of work can you perform or not perform?”
On the physical side, RFC is a scale with “functional capacities” ranging from sedentary work only, to very heavy physical labor. For example, an elderly individual with chronic heart problems may be restricted to sedentary work due to the health risks involved.
On the mental side, RFC is evaluated by a psychologist or a psychiatrist. Needless to say, the mental aspect of RFC is not concerned with bodily limitations. Instead, the mental component of RFC takes matters like memory, logic, and concentration into consideration.
Qualifying For Disability With Compassionate Allowances (CAL) in Arkansas
In addition to medical-vocational allowances, the SSA also observes compassionate allowances.
The list of compassionate allowances includes many conditions which are disabling, but which are also so rare and uncommon that they simply are not mentioned in the Listing of Impairments. While claims processing normally takes months (or even years in some cases), CAL fast-tracks reviews to be completed within a matter of weeks. Even though most of these conditions are so rare that they do not appear in the Blue Book, some CAL disabilities do appear on the Listing.
At the time of this writing, there are hundreds of health issues that could qualify you for monthly benefits under compassionate allowances. A small selection of conditions that are covered are listed below.
- Alpers Disease
- Batten Disease
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD)
- Dravet Syndrome
- Erdheim Chester Disease
- Fatal Familial Insomnia
- Hepatorenal Syndrome
- Leigh’s Disease
- Lowe Syndrome
- Multicentric Castleman Disease
- Ohtahara Syndrome
- Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome
Call Our Experienced Social Security Disability Attorney for a Free Consultation
If you or a loved one suffer from a disabling condition, Social Security Disability benefits could be a necessity for everyday and ordinary living expenses. These benefits are a lifeline for many individuals in Arkansas. Unfortunately, even when a condition is listed in the SSA’s Blue Book, applying for benefits is a challenging task. When your condition does not appear in the List of Impairments, you need an experienced Rogers Arkansas Social Security Disability Attorney working on your behalf. Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law, has the skill and resources to handle even the most difficult cases. Call our office at (479) 316-0438 to schedule a free consultation.
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