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SSA's Listing of Impairments: Musculoskeletal Disorders

The Social Security Administration is constantly working to update their "Listing of Impairments" / list of disorders eligible for Social Security Disability. This year, the SSA will ask for public comment (part of the approval process for such changes) on musculoskeletal disorders.

The Listing of Impairments includes the disorders and illnesses eligible for SSD as well as the standards that the SSA uses in determining whether an SSD applicant is disabled. If an applicant meets the criteria on the list, the SSA presumes he or she is disabled for SSD purposes. Generally, a person is eligible for SSD if he or she cannot work due to an impairment that is expected to last for at least a year or result in death.

Musculoskeletal disorders are common conditions that involve pain in bones, muscles, joints or structures surrounding bones, muscles and joints. In fact, these conditions are so common that approximately one third of adults have some sort of musculoskeletal condition in the U.S.

Simply having a musculoskeletal condition is not enough to qualify someone for Social Security Disability Insurance. Instead, the applicant must fall under the SSD's strict and somewhat complex definition of qualifying musculoskeletal disorders. The category of impairments listed in the SSA Listing of Impairments includes:

  • "Major dysfunction of a joint(s), which are characterized by gross anatomical deformity ... and chronic joint pain and stiffness with signs of limitation of motion or other abnormal motion of the affected joint(s)....
  • "Reconstructive surgery or surgical arthrodesis of a major weight-bearing joint, with inability to walk effectively ... and return to effective ambulation did not occur, or is not expected to occur, within 12 months of onset.
  • "Disorders of the spine with evidence of [severe] nerve root compression ... or spinal arachnoiditis ... or lumbar spinal stenosis resulting in pseudoclaudication.
  • "Amputation of both hands or one or both lower extremities ... or one hand and one lower extremity ... or hip disarticulation
  • "Fracture of the femur, tibia, pelvis, or one or more of the tarsal bones with solid union not evident ... and inability to walk effectively.
  • "Fracture of an upper extremity with [certain conditions that made it so that] function was not restored or expected to be restored within 12 months of onset.
  • "Soft tissue injury [where] major function was not restored or expected to be restored within 12 months of onset."

The SSA's public comment period may lead to changes in the Listing of Impairments, including additional impairments that could fall under into the musculoskeletal category.

Source: Social Security Online, Listing of Impairments, 1.00 Musculoskeletal System - Adult.

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