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What Are the Top 10 Disabilities That Qualify for Disability Benefits?

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When Social Security decides if you can get disability benefits, they will look at your severe health problems and see how they stop you from working.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers monthly social security benefits to those in need who cannot work due to disabilities.

I have many years of legal experience as a social security disability attorney and have handled numerous disability cases. Based on this experience, I have compiled a list of the top 10 disabilities most often resulting in Social Security benefits.

Quick Summary

  • Many people qualify for Social Security disability benefits because of respiratory diseases.
  • Organic mental disorders will be treated in the same manner as anxiety and depression.
  • It can take a long time to apply for SSDI. This is because you need the right medical documentation to back up your claim. 

What Are the Top 10 Disabilities Eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits?

A doctor talking to a disabled person

The top 10 disabilities eligible for social security disability benefits are Arthritis, Heart Disease, Degenerative Disc Disease, Respiratory Illness, Mood Disorders, Nervous System Disorders, Injuries, Immune System Disorders, Intellectual Disabilities, and Neoplasms.

Let me discuss each in detail.

1. Arthritis (Musculoskeletal System and Connective Tissue Disorder)

Arthritis is one of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue disorders that can make it difficult, if not impossible, to work. Without this system, sitting, standing, or walking would be difficult, therefore classifying it as a serious disability.

Many rely on SSDI (Supplemental Security Income) because of how much arthritis impacts their everyday lives. This category made up 29.7% of all people receiving Social Security benefits.

The musculoskeletal system includes:

  • bones
  • ligaments
  • cartilage
  • other connective tissues that help you move your body

2. Heart Disease (Cardiovascular System Disorders)

An old man with a heart disease

Circulatory system diseases make up 7% of disabilities. The circulatory system, also known as the cardiovascular system, transports essential nutrients like oxygen and hormones to cells while carrying away waste products.

The circulatory system includes:

  • Arteries are responsible for taking blood away from the heart.
  • Veins that return blood to the heart.

The following are examples of circulatory system diseases:

  • Heart attack
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Arrhythmia and dysrhythmia
  • Heart failure
  • High cholesterol or high blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Peripheral artery disease (PAD)

3. Degenerative Disc Disease

DDD, another musculoskeletal disorder, typically affects adults aged 60+. It can be so debilitating that the sufferer may not be able to walk. Additionally, someone with DDD may 

qualify if they cannot sit in one position for more than two hours due to pain.

4. Respiratory Illness

Many individuals qualify for Social Security benefits because of respiratory diseases. One of the most prevalent illnesses is COPD, which has the potential to be fatal.

5. Mental Disorders or Mood Disorders

A person having a mental breakdown in bedWhile we cannot list all the other mental disorders here, know that there are many not already mentioned. Mental disorders account for 4% of those on disability.

Anxiety is a condition that affects numerous people, albeit not all of them, to the same degree. Generalized anxiety disorder is one of the most prevalent mental disorders and may be found in up to 50% of persons who apply for benefits. 

Clients frequently contact me because they are unable to function at work because of agoraphobia or can't handle being around others in the workplace owing to social anxiety.

Although anxiety and personality disorders don't make up a large percentage of disability recipients, judges are usually very strict with these claims. If you have anxiety that inhibits your life, you need an attorney who knows how to make your claim stand out among the rest.

Psychotic Disorders

4.8 percent of persons on Social Security Disability Insurance are diagnosed with psychotic disorders.

These include symptoms such as:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Catatonic behavior
  • Disorganized speech

Symptoms of psychotic disorders can make it hard to lead a normal life. Examples of these disorders include delusional disorder, schizophrenia, and schizoaffective disorder.

Organic Mental Disorders

Chronic organic brain syndromes that fall under the "organic mental disorders" category will be evaluated similarly to anxiety and depression. 

A judge will look at how the disorder affects someone's ability to follow instructions, interact with others, work steadily, and do daily tasks. However, as noted, organic mental disorders can come with proof issues.

6. Nervous System and Sense Organs

The nervous system enables all body parts to communicate with one another. It's also involved in decision-making. Therefore, you are eligible for social security benefits if you suffer from neurological disorders.

The nervous system includes the following:

  • Brain
  • Spinal cord
  • Sensory organs
  • Nerves

Here are some nervous system disorders examples:

  • Infections like meningitis and polio
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Functional disorders like epilepsy and neuralgia
  • Degenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis 
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Structural disorders like Bell's palsy and brain or spinal cord injuries

7. Injuries

A person with a physical injury being checked out by a doctorPhysical injuries can result in a wide range of impairments. According to SSA data, 3.5% of individuals became disabled due to accidents. 

To be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, someone must have an impairment that prevents them from doing any work for a whole year or more.

Consequently, people should consider the private disability insurance programs many employers offer. With these programs, workers can get disability payments for injuries that prevent them from doing their job – even if they could still do a different job or if their injury is not permanent.

8. Intellectual Disabilities

Based on the data provided by the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), an intellectual disability is characterized by impairments in [1]:

  • Learning
  • reasoning
  • problem-solving
  • Adaptive behavior

Intellectual disabilities can make it difficult for people to learn, retain information, and communicate.

Types of intellectual disabilities include:

  • Fragile X syndrome
  • Developmental delays
  • Down syndrome
  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD)
  • Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS)

Intellectual disabilities can appear before the age of 18. They account for 8.6% of people receiving Social Security Disability payments.

"Intellectual disability" was formerly referred to as mental retardation, and it seems that developmental disabilities would include autism spectrum disorders. Claims involving individuals suffering from these impairments will also generally be asserted by younger individuals, as they suffer from lifelong problems which make them unable to work"
- James R.Keller, Attorney

9. Immune System Disorders

Disorders of the immune system can have a wide range, from viruses such as HIV to 

autoimmune illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis

10. Neoplasms

Finally, neoplasms are the 10th most common disability. A neoplasm is a rare disease that affects 2.8% of persons receiving disability payments. It develops into a tumor or swelling in the body.

If left unchecked, the tumor can metastasize and affect other organs in the body, potentially becoming life-threatening.

The main types of neoplasms include:

  • Fibromas
  • Adenomas
  • Lipomas
  • Hemangiomas


A person with a migraine in front of a green screenAs I previously said, there are many forms of impairments that might qualify you for social security disability payments. Other conditions can make you eligible for SSD benefits. 

These include chronic migraines, digestive system disorders, bipolar disorder, genitourinary disorders, acute depression, and others.

However, I must mention one type: Endocrine Disorders, which make up 3.3% of SSDI beneficiaries.

Diabetes is a serious medical condition that can lead to other issues in the body, such as eye diseases, kidney problems, and nerve damage. 

There is no category for diabetes on Medicare's site, and its victims sometimes endure unjust restrictions when applying for benefits, especially Social Security disability benefits, because of lowered life expectancy.

Social Security's classification and labeling of disabling impairments can often be unfair and inaccurate, which is why having a disability attorney represent you is so important.

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What Is the Most Approved Disability?

The most approved disability is arthritis and other musculoskeletal system disabilities. These conditions automatically qualify you for disability benefits.

What Are the Three Most Common Disabilities?

The three most common disabilities are Musculoskeletal System Disorders, Mood Disorders, and Nervous System disorders.

What Is the Number One Cause of Disability?

The number one cause of disability is musculoskeletal system disorders.

What Is Considered to Be a Disability?

Disability is considered when a person cannot do any substantial, profitable activity because of a physical or mental injury that lasts or is expected to last for at least 12 months and may result in death.

Do You Want to Apply for an SSDI?

If you have a disease that is expensive to treat, you might be able to get help from the Social Security Administration. To do this, you need to show the SSA that you cannot work and that your disease has made it hard for you to live your life as you used to.

The best way to know for sure if you have a qualifying disability is to contact Schmidt & Clark to speak with an attorney who can evaluate your claim in a free consultation session. Our disability attorneys will give you the best chance of getting the benefits you need and deserve.



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