Social Security Evaluates Disability Listing for Musculoskeletal Disorders

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Allsup explains disability evaluation for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits

Musculoskeletal conditions are those affecting muscles, joints, nerves and tendons in the body, and they may be inflammatory or degenerative in nature.

This year, the Social Security Administration (SSA) plans to seek public comment on musculoskeletal disorders, as it strives to update the federal agency’s Listing of Impairments that may qualify someone for Social Security disability benefits. Listings are important because they outline the criteria SSA uses to determine if a claimant is disabled, according to Allsup, a nationwide Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) representation company.

Musculoskeletal conditions are those affecting muscles, joints, nerves and tendons in the body, and they may be inflammatory or degenerative in nature. Examples include arthritis and degenerative disc disease. When they reach a level of severity that makes it impossible to work any longer, they may qualify affected individuals for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.

SSDI is a federally mandated disability insurance program overseen by the SSA, and it operates separately from the retirement and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. SSDI provides monthly benefits to individuals who are under full retirement age (age 65 or older) and who can no longer work because of a severe disability. Individuals and their employers pay for the federal insurance program through FICA taxes.

SSA’s Listing of Impairments describes medical conditions that are so severe the SSA presumes any person who has a medical condition(s) that satisfies the criteria of a listing is unable to perform any gainful activity and, therefore, is disabled. The inability to work also must have lasted or be expected to last for at least 12 continuous months or be expected to result in death. According to SSA, the listings are special rules that help them identify claims that should clearly be allowed for Social Security disability benefits.

Musculoskeletal disorders may fall into several areas of injury or disease. Another example of a disorder is a condition that develops over time. Sometimes a person experiences repetitive injuries to joints, muscle and bones—where a part of the body is used repeatedly and under more stress than it is designed to handle. The repetitive motion, when prolonged, may cause damage, which may result in functional limitations that preclude all work.

For these and other musculoskeletal conditions, the SSA considers symptoms such as pain, swelling, fatigue, and decreased focus or concentration when assessing a disability claim, according to Ed Swierczek, Allsup senior claimant representative. “But to prove eligibility for SSDI requires the musculoskeletal impairment to preclude all work for at least 12 months, or be expected to result in death,” Swierczek said.

Find more information about SSDI guidelines by type of disability on To find out if you might be eligible for Social Security disability benefits, call the Disability Evaluation Center at (800) 678-3276 for a free evaluation.

Allsup is a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, Medicare and Medicare Secondary Payer compliance services for individuals, employers and insurance carriers. Founded in 1984, Allsup employs more than 800 professionals who deliver specialized services supporting people with disabilities and seniors so they may lead lives that are as financially secure and as healthy as possible. The company is based in Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis. For more information, go to or visit Allsup on Facebook at

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