What Conditions Qualify for Disability Benefits: How to Get the Support You Need

If you are unable to work due to a physical or mental disability, you may be eligible for disability benefits. The Social Security Administration provides disability benefits to those who meet certain criteria. However, it can be challenging to navigate the complex process of filing a disability claim and proving eligibility. This article will help you understand which conditions may qualify for disability benefits and what steps you can take to get the support you need.

Understanding Disability Benefits

Disability benefits are designed to provide financial assistance to those who are unable to work due to a disability. These benefits are funded by the Social Security Administration, which administers two different programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

SSDI is a program that provides disability benefits to those who have worked and paid Social Security taxes for a certain amount of time. To be eligible for SSDI, you must have worked long enough and recently enough to have earned sufficient work credits. The amount of work credits you need to be eligible for SSDI depends on your age at the time you became disabled.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI provides financial assistance to individuals with limited income and resources who are disabled, blind or aged 65 and older. Unlike SSDI, SSI is a needs-based program, meaning that you do not need to have worked to be eligible. However, you must meet certain income and resource limits to qualify for SSI.

Medical Conditions That May Qualify for Disability Benefits

How Disabilities Are Evaluated

To be eligible for disability benefits, you must have a medical condition that meets the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability. A disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that prevents you from engaging in substantial gainful activity and is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death.

The Social Security Administration maintains a list of impairments that are considered severe enough to automatically qualify for disability benefits. This list is known as the Blue Book. However, not all disabilities are included in the Blue Book, so you may still be eligible for disability benefits even if your condition is not listed.

Common Medical Conditions That May Qualify for Disability Benefits

Here are some of the most common medical conditions that may qualify for disability benefits:

  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular conditions such as heart failure and coronary artery disease
  • Respiratory disorders such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma
  • Neurological disorders such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease
  • Mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia
  • Musculoskeletal disorders such as arthritis and back injuries
  • Vision and hearing loss

It is important to note that an individual’s ability to work with a particular medical condition is a crucial factor in determining eligibility for disability benefits. Even if a condition is severe, an individual may not qualify for disability benefits if they can still engage in substantial gainful activity.

Applying for Disability Benefits

How to Apply

To apply for disability benefits, you can complete an application online, over the phone, or in person at a Social Security Administration office. You will need to provide detailed information about your medical condition, work history, and income. You may also need to provide medical records and other documentation to support your claim.

The Disability Determination Process

After you submit your application, the Social Security Administration will begin the disability determination process. This process involves reviewing your medical records, consulting with medical professionals, and evaluating your ability to work. The process can take several months or even years to complete.

If your claim is approved, you will receive monthly disability benefits. If your claim is denied, you can appeal the decision through a series of administrative hearings.

Getting Help With Your Disability Claim

Legal Representation

Many disability applicants choose to hire an attorney or other legal representative to help them navigate the complex process of filing a claim and appealing a denial. An attorney can help you gather the necessary medical and legal documentation, prepare for hearings, and argue on your behalf.

Disability Advocacy Groups

There are also many disability advocacy groups that provide free or low-cost assistance to disability applicants. These groups can help you understand the disability determination process, connect you with legal resources, and provide emotional support throughout the process.


Applying for disability benefits can be a complicated and challenging process. However, if you have a medical condition that prevents you from working, disability benefits can provide the financial support you need to make ends meet. By understanding the criteria for eligibility and seeking help when needed, you can increase your chances of getting the disability benefits you deserve.

Common Questions and Answers

  • Q: What medical conditions are listed in the Blue Book?
  • A: The Blue Book lists impairments such as cancer, cardiovascular conditions, respiratory disorders, neurological disorders, mental health conditions, musculoskeletal disorders, vision and hearing loss, and more.
  • Q: What if my condition is not listed in the Blue Book?
  • A: You may still be eligible for disability benefits even if your condition is not listed in the Blue Book. The Social Security Administration will evaluate your ability to work and determine if your condition is severe enough to qualify for disability benefits.
  • Q: How long does the disability determination process take?
  • A: The disability determination process can take several months or even years to complete.
  • Q: Can I work while receiving disability benefits?
  • A: Yes, but your earnings cannot exceed a certain threshold. This threshold is known as substantial gainful activity (SGA). In 2021, the SGA limit for non-blind individuals is $1,310 per month. If you earn more than this amount, your benefits may be reduced or discontinued.


  • Social Security Administration. (n.d.). Disability benefits. https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/disability/
  • Social Security Administration. (n.d.). Blue Book. https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/

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