The Most Common Types of Disabilities

According to the most recent statistics from the Social Security Administration (SSA), there are more than 10 million people receiving Social Security benefits based on a disability. That total included 8.9 million disabled workers, more than 1 million disabled adults and 259,000 disabled widows and widowers in 2015. In addition, 141,000 spouses and 1.6 million student children of disabled workers receive benefits.

What is the definition of disability?

The legal definition of “disability” states that a person can be considered disabled if they are unable to perform any substantial gainful activity due to a medical or physical impairment or impairments.

More specifically, under the ADA 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2 definitions, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) defines an individual with a disability as “any person who has or has had a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person’s major life activities; has a record of such impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment.”

Our Social Security disability (SSD) attorneys at Hardison & Cochran understand that the Social Security Administration’s listings of medical impairments that qualify for disability benefits can be confusing. Listed below are some of the most common types of disabilities. Our knowledgeable attorneys can help you appeal your case if the Administration has denied your claim for SSD. We assist people throughout North Carolina in pursuing disability claims. The sooner you contact us, the quicker we can get started to work on your disability appeal.

Some of the conditions that may automatically qualify the policyholder for social security disability benefits include: 

  • Musculoskeletal system and connective problems including:
    • Arthritis
    • Back pain
    • Fibromyalgia
    • Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD).
  • Mental disorders including:
    • Mood disorders
    • Schizophrenia
    • PTSD
    • Autism or Asperger’s syndrome
    • Depression
  • Cardiovascular conditions and circulatory disorders
    • Angina
    • Hypertension
    • Heart diseases
  • Cancer
  • Nervous system and sense organs conditions
    • Parkinson’s diseases
    • Epilepsy
    • Blindness
    • Hearing loss

Musculoskeletal System and Connective Tissue

The SSA reports that the largest category of diagnoses among disabled workers receiving disability benefits was diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue. These disabilities, which represented 32.3 percent of the diagnoses, involve damage to one’s nerves, muscles, tendons or ligaments. Examples of this type of disorder include:

  • Arthritis—An individual with rheumatoid arthritis, a disorder of the immune system, must experience significant limits on his or her ability to work to qualify for benefits under this medical diagnosis. Rheumatoid arthritis is sometimes referred to as a connective tissue disorder.
  • Back pain (scoliosis, degenerative disc disease, ruptured disc or spinal disorders)—Abnormal curvature of the spine may affect an individual’s ability to walk as well as the function of other body systems. The intensity of back pain and the limitations on an individual’s ability to function are considered in a disability diagnosis related to back pain.
  • Fibromyalgia—Fibromyalgia is a complex syndrome in which a person has widespread pain in the joints, tendons, muscles and soft tissues that lasts for more than three months. Claims reviewers will try to assess whether there is adequate evidence to show that the condition limits a person’s ability to perform any type of gainful work.
  • Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) — RSD describes a range of symptoms that may occur from injury, diseases or surgery. RSD is characterized by intense burning or aching pain typically caused by trauma to a single extremity.

Mental Disorders

According to the SSA, nearly 20 percent of disability benefits were awarded to individuals with qualifying mental disorders. Individuals must have a medically diagnosed mental condition and it must cause an extreme limitation in an individual’s ability to function independently. The Social Security Administration groups mental disorders into broad categories, including:

  • Mood disorders (anxiety, depression, panic attacks) – To qualify for disability, the anxiety disorder or depression must cause limitations in the ability to understand and apply information, to have social interactions with others, to concentrate and to manage oneself.
  • Schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders – Disability claims reviewers look for medical documentations that the individual has delusions or hallucinations, and disorganized thinking.
  • Organic mental disorder – The criteria for Social Security Disability benefits based on organic mental disorder, also known as organic brain syndrome, vary with the particular disorder, but typically involve a doctor’s documentation that an individual has shown one or more symptoms of organic mental disorder such as confusion, loss of cognitive ability and memory loss.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – Post-traumatic stress is a type of anxiety disorder. A person with PTSD may qualify as having a disabling mood disorder if the condition is properly medically documented.
  • Autism or Asperger’s syndrome – Individuals with Autism spectrum disorders may qualify for disability benefits if they have medically documented deficits in verbal communication, non-verbal communication and social interaction and limitations in the ability to understand, recall and apply information, to interact with others, to concentrate and to manage oneself
  • Alcoholism or drug addiction – You cannot qualify for disability if drug or alcohol abuse is a contributing factor to the condition. Mental disorders due to drug or alcohol addiction are not considered organic mental disorders.

Cardiac and Circulatory Disorders

Approximately 10 percent of claimants awarded benefits suffered from a circulatory disorder, according to the SSA. Circulatory disorders involve the flow of blood to the heart and rest of the body. Examples are:

  • Angina—Chest pain by itself is insufficient to support a determination of disability. Angina is one of the most common cardiac disorders.
  • High blood pressure / hypertension—High blood pressure, if not properly managed, may damage other body systems and lead to heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular complications. Individuals with high blood pressure applying for disability are evaluated under the criteria for chronic heart disease and coronary artery disease.
  • Coronary artery disease—Coronary artery disease, which involves narrowing of the coronary arteries due to a build-up of plaque, is the most common cause of reduced blood and oxygen supply to the heart, a condition known as myocardial ischemia. Coronary artery disease may cause total functional impairment. Claims examiners will assess the impact on an individual’s ability to function in making a finding on disability benefits.
  • Abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia)—There are many types of arrhythmias. They are identified by where in the heart they occur and by what happens to the heart’s rhythm. Arrhythmias starting in the lower chambers caused by heart disease are the most serious.
  • Congenital heart defects—An individual who undergoes surgery for a congenital heart defect or acquired heart disease may qualify for disability benefits for at least 12 months after surgical treatment of heart valve or lesions, or insertion of a pacemaker.

Neoplasms (Cancer)

Neoplasms are abnormal masses of tissue. They are also called tumors. They may be malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous). The SSA reports that 9.2 percent of benefits awarded in 2011 went to individuals with this type of disorder. Mesothelioma and lung cancer are common types of cancers reported by workers.

Nervous System and Sense Organs

According to the SSA, approximately 10 percent of claimants awarded disability benefits in 2015 had neurological disorders. Examples include:

  • Parkinson’s Disease—If you have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease or Parkinsonian syndrome and are no longer able to work, you may quality for disability benefits. Individuals must exhibit extreme limitations in motor function in arms or legs, resulting in limitation in the ability to stand from a seated position, balance while walking or using the arms, or limitations on physical functioning and impacts on understanding or applying information and interacting with others.
  • Neuralgia—This chronic pain related to trigeminal neuralgia affects part of your face and can be sudden and excruciating. Neuralgia can be difficult to diagnose. A knowledgeable SSD attorney can help you determine whether your diagnosis may qualify for disability benefits.
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME)—CFS is a systemic disorder involving complex symptoms that vary in severity and duration. It causes prolonged fatigue that lasts six months or longer and results in substantial reduction in work, personal and social activities. A diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome when accompanied by appropriate medical evidence may be the basis for a disability finding.
  • Blindness—There are special disability rules for people who are blind or have limited vision, recognizing the effect of blindness on an individual’s ability to work. You are considered blind under Social Security’s definition if your vision cannot be corrected to better than 20/200 in your better eye. If you are blind, you may earn some money and still qualify for disability benefits.
  • Sciatica—If your sciatic nerve is irritated or compressed, you may suffer severe pain including lower back pain and shooting pain in the legs. Sciatica can limit your ability to handle the physical demands of a job or stay on your feet for any length of time. The question claims examiners will weigh is whether the individual has sought sufficient treatment.
  • Hearing loss—You may qualify for disability benefits if you are profoundly deaf, but moderate hearing loss does not qualify as disabling hearing loss, according to the SSA.

Other Conditions

Several other conditions may be disabling and entitle you to receive SSD benefits, including chronic migraines, autoimmune system disorders (such as lupus), digestive system disorders (such as Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome), genitourinary system disorders (such as kidney disease), respiratory system disorders (emphysema, asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD)

Contact an Experienced North Carolina SSD Benefits Lawyer

The SSA maintains a list of impairments that are considered so severe that they automatically qualify one for disability benefits as long as all other requirements are met. These conditions are found in the SSA’s “Blue Book,” which describes the medical evidence that is needed to prove the impairment.

You can also be declared disabled if you have a condition that is considered to be equal in severity to a listed impairment.

Even if you don’t have a listed impairment or one considered equal in severity to a listed one, you may still be deemed to be disabled if you can show that your medical condition keeps you from working or doing any other type of work.

Allow Hardison & Cochran to put its skill and experience to work for you in seeking disability benefits. In particular, we can help you to gather the medical evidence you need to show you are disabled.

Contact us today and receive a free and immediate review of your case.

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