The Social Security Disability "Blue Book" Explained
The Social Security Disability “Blue Book” is an essential yet often misunderstood tool within the landscape of Social Security Disability benefits. Officially known as “Disability Evaluation Under Social Security,” the Blue Book serves as a medical guide used by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to determine if an individual’s disabling condition is severe enough to warrant disability benefits. Here’s an in-depth exploration of what the Blue Book is, how it’s organized, and how it’s used in the disability determination process.
Purpose of the Blue Book
The primary purpose of the Blue Book is to set clear medical criteria for evaluating disability claims. It’s designed to ensure that the SSA’s disability determinations are consistent and grounded in current medical knowledge.
Structure of the Blue Book
The Blue Book is divided into two main parts:
Part A and Part B, which are adult disabilities and childhood disabilities, respectively. While Part A contains medical information pertaining to applicants above the age of 18, Part B focuses entirely on minors who are disabled. For the purposes of this article, we’ll be focusing on Part A.
This section contains medical criteria that apply to the evaluation of impairments in adults aged 18 and over. It’s further divided into the following 14 sections, each addressing a specific body system or function:
- Musculoskeletal System
- Special Senses and Speech
- Respiratory Disorders
- Cardiovascular System
- Digestive System
- Genitourinary Disorders
- Hematological Disorders
- Skin Disorders
- Endocrine Disorders
- Congenital Disorders that Affect Multiple Body Systems
- Neurological Disorders
- Mental Disorders
- Cancer (Malignant Neoplastic Diseases)
- Immune System Disorders
Listings and Criteria
Within each section, the Blue Book provides “listings” which describe specific impairments and the medical criteria that must be met for each. These listings are highly detailed and include information such as symptoms, laboratory test results, and treatment responses. If an individual’s condition meets or equals the criteria of a listing, they may be deemed disabled, which, in turn, could aid in the determination of benefits for the applicant.
When evaluating a disability claim, disability examiners refer to the Blue Book to compare an applicant’s medical evidence with the listings. The process involves several key steps:
- Identifying the Relevant Listing: Examiners identify the section of the Blue Book that pertains to the applicant’s impairment.
- Comparing Medical Evidence: They compare the medical evidence provided with the criteria in the listing.
- Considering Equivalence: If the impairment doesn’t exactly match a listing, examiners may still find a disability if the condition is medically equivalent to a listed impairment.
Importance of Legal Representation
While the Social Security Administration operates within its labyrinthian parameters, you are looking to secure the benefits that you deserve in light of the disability that is preventing you from working. Your best tool to ensure your desired outcome is a qualified attorney at your side, guiding you through the application process, assisting you in an appeal (should your application get denied – a more common occurrence than you’d think), and keeping your mountain of medical documents in proper order.