The Listing of Impairments describes impairments for each of the major body systems that Social Security considers severe enough to prevent a claimant from doing any gainful activity, regardless of his or her age, education, or work experience (you can find these impairments on our website in our articles on the disabilities that may qualify for benefits). Disability claimants who “meet” or satisfy all the severity requirements for one of these listed conditions can be approved for benefits somewhat easily. However, the disability evaluation process, even for these “listing-level” impairments, is never automatic as nothing is ever guaranteed with Social Security.
Each body system section in Parts A and B of the Listing of Impairments is in two parts: an introduction, followed by the specific listings. The introduction to each body system contains information relevant to the use of the listings in that body system, e.g., examples of common impairments in the body system and definitions used in the listings for that body system. The specific listings follow the introduction in each body system, after the heading, “Category of Impairments.” Within each listing, Social Security specifies the objective medical and other findings needed to satisfy the criteria of that listing.
If the criteria required to qualify for the listed condition are not evidenced in the medical records (for example, the doctor’s office did not produce required test results or otherwise left out important information), the claimant will be denied benefits even though his or her condition is one listed as medically eligible for Social Security benefits. Social Security will, of course, include a rationale in the denial letter as to why benefits were denied, and the claimant can submit the missing information in an appeal for reconsideration review.
Social Security will find that an impairment(s) meets the requirements of a listing when it satisfies all the criteria of that listing, including any relevant criteria in the introduction, and meets the duration requirement.
Most of the listed impairments are permanent or expected to result in death. For some listings, Social Security states a specific period of time for which an impairment(s) will meet the listing. For all others, the evidence must show that an impairment(s) has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.
If an impairment(s) does not meet the criteria of a listing, it can medically “equal” the criteria of a listing.
If a claimant’s impairment(s) does not meet or medically equal the criteria of a listing, Social Security may find that he or she is disabled or still disabled at a later step in the sequential evaluation process.
If the claims examiner at DDS finds that there is sufficient medical evidence in your record to qualify for benefits under a Listing of Impairment, your file will be sent back to the field office to make sure that you are still eligible for SSDI or SSI and that you still are not working above the SGA level. If this final check goes well, your file will be sent to a payment center and you will be sent an award notice with an estimated date of when your payments will begin (for SSDI, this will be after the five-month waiting period). Finally, you will receive your first disability check and any past due benefits owed.