• Christopher Le

What are the Most Common Types of Disabilities?

According to 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 addition, 141,000 spouses and 1.6 million student children also receive disabled worker benefits.

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

  • Musculoskeletal system and connective problems including: Arthritis, Back pain, Fibromyalgia, and 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 largest category of diagnoses among disabled workers receiving social security disability benefits was diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue. Examples of this type of medical diagnosis include:

  • Arthritis—Osteoarthritis or Rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is often times referred to as a connective tissue disorder.

  • Back pain (scoliosis, degenerative disc disease, herniated or slipped disc or spinal disorders)—The intensity of back pain and the limitations on an individual’s ability to stand, walk and sit for specific periods 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. SSA views fibromyalgia as a catch all condition which makes it’s a lot tougher to be approved. It’s important to be seen by a rheumatologist if you have fibromyalgia.

  • Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) — RSD is characterized by intense burning or aching pain typically caused by acute trauma to a specific extremity.

Mental Disorders

According to the SSA, nearly 20 percent of disability benefits were awarded to individuals with mental diagnosis. For those with a mental condition, they must show an extreme limitation in an individual’s ability to function independently. The Social Security Administration couples mental disorders into broad categories, such as :

  • Mood disorders (anxiety, depression, panic attacks) – To qualify for disability, the anxiety disorder or depression must cause severe limitations in the ability to understand and apply information, having social interactions with others, and concentrating and carrying out certain tasks.

  • Schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders – Frequent hospitalizations help boost chances of success. SSA also checks for medical evidence that the individual has delusions or hallucinations, and disorganized thinking.

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD) – Post-traumatic stress is a form of anxiety disorder. A person with PTSD may qualify for disability benefits if the diagnosis is properly documented and severe.

  • Autism or Asperger’s syndrome – Individuals suffering with Autism spectrum disorders may qualify for disability benefits if they have deficits in verbal communication, non-verbal communication and social interaction and limitations in the ability to understand, recall and apply information, interacting with others, and concentrating.

  • Alcoholism or drug addiction – Mental problems due to drug or alcohol addiction are not considered a mental disorder. In fact, if you are consuming drugs or alcohol, it could have a negative impact on your claim. Typically, you cannot qualify for disability if drug or alcohol abuse is a contributing factor to your mental condition.

Cardiac and Circulatory Disorders

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

  • Angina—AKA chest pain is not enough to support a finding of disability.

  • High blood pressure / hypertension—High blood pressure, in itself normally does not automatically qualify for disability. But if not properly managed, it could damage other body systems and lead to heart disease, stroke and other complications. Those suffering with high blood pressure 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 one of the most common cause of reduced blood and oxygen supply to the heart. Coronary artery disease may cause total functional impairment. Depending on the severity as well as an individuals ejection fraction, this could lead to a finding of disabled.

  • Abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia)—There are many types of arrhythmias. Arrhythmias starting in the lower chambers caused by heart disease are the most serious of them.

  • Congenital heart defects—An individual who undergoes surgery for a congenital heart defect may qualify for disability benefits for what is called a closed period of 12 months after surgery of heart valve or lesions, or insertion of a pacemaker.

Neoplasms (Cancer)

Neoplasms can be malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous). SSA reports that about 9.2 percent of benefits awarded in 2020 went to individuals with this type of disorder.

Nervous System and Sense Organs

Approximately 10 percent of claimants awarded disability benefits in 2010 had neurological disorders . Examples include:

  • Parkinson’s Disease—If you have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and are unable to work, you may automatically quality for disability benefits. Individuals must have extreme limitations in motor function in arms or legs, balance while walking or using the arms, or limitations on physical functioning.

  • Neuralgia—This chronic pain related to trigeminal neuralgia affects your face and can be sudden and excruciating.

  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), —CFS causes prolonged fatigue that can last six months or longer and results in substantial reduction in work, personal and social activities. This condition may be the basis for a disability finding.

  • Blindness— You are considered blind under Social Security’s guidelines if your vision cannot be corrected to better than 20/200 in your better eye. If you meet this criteria, you will found to be disable.

  • Sciatica—If your sciatic nerve is compressed, you may experience severe pain including lower back pain and shooting pain in the legs. Sciatica can limit your ability to stand, walk or even sit for long periods.

  • Hearing loss—You may qualify for disability benefits if youve been diagnosed and profoundly deaf. it’s important to have audiological tests to confirm the severity of your hearing loss.

Other Conditions

There are many other conditions that may be disabling and may lead to a finding of disability, these include: chronic migraines, autoimmune system disorders (such as lupus), digestive disorders (such as Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome), severe kidney disease, respiratory system disorders (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease aka COPD).


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