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What Conditions Automatically Qualify You for Disability?

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
May 16, 2024  ·  3 min read
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Atticus offers free, high-quality disability advice for Americans who can't work. Our team of Stanford and Harvard trained lawyers has a combined 15+ years of legal experience, and have helped over 10,000 Americans apply for disability benefits.

See if you qualify

If you have a medical condition that prevents you from working, you might qualify for Social Security disability benefits. The application process for Social Security benefits is long—unfortunately, there’s no shortcut to receiving a monthly disability check in the mail.

However, certain conditions qualify automatically and help fast-track the application process. Learn more about which conditions automatically qualify, the eligibility requirements, and the most approved conditions below.

Jump to:

What conditions automatically qualify you for disability benefits?

2024 Compassionate Allowance List

What is the SSA Blue Book?

What disabilities are hard to prove?

What are the most approved disabilities for Social Security?

What Conditions Qualify FAQ


What conditions automatically qualify you for disability benefits?

Some conditions automatically qualify for Social Security disability benefits under the Social Security Administration’s Compassionate Allowance program. The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes certain cancers, adult brain disorders, and rare disorders as automatic qualifiers. 

If your condition is listed under the compassionate allowance list, your case will be expedited for approval to receive benefits, provided you meet all other criteria. The SSA determines eligibility for benefits using its five-step sequential evaluation process, which also considers your earnings and work history.

Social Security 5-step sequential evaluation process

After you submit your disability application, Disability Determination Services (DDS) will assess your disability claim using the following steps:

  1. Are you working at a substantial gainful activity (SGA) level? SGA is a work activity and earnings level that requires significant mental and physical output. In 2024, the SSA considers $1,550 in monthly earnings SGA

  2. Do you have a severe impairment? Your medical condition must be expected to last more than 12 months, and the DDS will examine how it impacts your ability to work.

  3. Does your disability meet the government’s definition of disability? The SSA’s Listing of Impairments, also known as the Blue Book, lists the criteria for eligible illnesses and conditions.

  4. Can you do past work? The DDS will assess your current limitations and determine whether you can perform the work you’ve done in the past.

  5. Can you do any other type of work? The DDS will consider if you can adjust to other types of work based on your education, age, previous work experience, and transferable skills.

For more information on how to apply for Social Security disability, check out our step-by-step guide.


What is the SSA Blue Book?

The Social Security Administration uses the Disability Evaluation Under Social Security, also known as the SSA Blue Book, to assess disabling conditions. The SSA Blue Book includes a “Listing of Impairments” with fourteen categories of conditions and medical criteria to evaluate impairments of each major body system.

The categories include musculoskeletal disorders; special senses and speech; respiratory disorders; cardiovascular system; digestive disorders; genitourinary disorders; hematological disorders; skin disorders; endocrine disorders; congenital disorders that affect multiple body systems; neurological disorders; mental disorders; cancer (malignant neoplastic diseases); and immune system disorders.

If your condition is not in the SSA’s Blue Book, you can still qualify for benefits if you can prove your condition is severely limiting and prevents you from being able to work. This is where it can be really helpful to work with a lawyer. A disability attorney can help you gather the right medical evidence for your condition and build your case.


What is the easiest condition to get disability?

There are no conditions under which it is easier to secure disability benefits than others. Several factors determine your eligibility for benefits, including your earnings and work history, so you must medically and technically qualify for benefits. However, it can be easier to medically qualify for benefits if you have a condition with well-defined symptoms and diagnostic criteria.

“Most of the time with SSA, you need to prove that your condition makes it difficult to work. But there are certain conditions, like those on the compassionate allowance list, where SSA recognizes that just by having the condition, it's going to be very hard to work — in those cases, it's often a lot easier to get benefits,” says Sarah Aitchison, a lawyer at Atticus. 

Many conditions are eligible for disability benefits. See what you qualify for instantly.

What disabilities are hard to prove?

Mental conditions can be challenging to prove to the SSA. To qualify for disability benefits, you need evidence like diagnostic tests and medical records to prove your condition makes it impossible to work. Tests like X-rays and bloodwork can demonstrate physical illnesses, but mental illnesses can be harder to document.

“A critical piece of winning disability benefits in a mental health case is that your limitations and symptoms are discussed in detail in your medical records," says Sydney Hershenhorn, a lawyer at Atticus. "The best way to make sure this happens is by seeing a specialist regularly and talking to them about your condition."

A sketch of a person looking at their medical records

What are the most approved disabilities for Social Security?

According to the 1, nearly nine million people in the United States receive Social Security disability benefits. In 2022, two and a half million applicants won benefits for diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue.

Top 5 most approved disabilities

Among the recipients, here are the most approved diagnostic groups:

  1. Diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue: In 2022, 34.1% of disabled workers were awarded disability benefits for diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue, including conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, and osteoarthritis.

  2. Depressive, bipolar, and related disorders: Conditions like depression and bipolar disorder account for 12.7% of disability recipients.

  3. Diseases of the nervous system and sense organs: This category of diagnostic group accounts for 10% of disability recipients and includes conditions like epilepsy, Bell’s palsy, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s disease.

  4. Diseases of the circulatory system: Diseases of the circulatory system include heart disease, high blood pressure, and peripheral artery disease. These conditions account for 7.6% of all approved conditions.

  5. Intellectual disorders: In 2022, 3.8% of all recipients received benefits for intellectual disorders, like traumatic brain injuries and autism spectrum disorder.


Get help applying for Social Security disability benefits

Atticus is a law firm specializing in helping Americans apply — and win — Social Security disability benefits. Check out our resources about how to apply and qualify for benefits programs, including Social Security Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). 

Take our 2-minute quiz to see if you qualify, and call Atticus for free advice about your application options. We can also introduce you to a highly qualified disability lawyer who can help you navigate the disability application process, if you'd like.


2024 Compassionate Allowance List

1p36 Deletion Syndrome

Acute Leukemia

Adrenal Cancer - with distant metastases or inoperable, unresectable or recurrent

Adult Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Adult Onset Huntington Disease

Aicardi-Goutieres Syndrome

Alexander Disease (ALX) - Neonatal and Infantile

Allan-Herndon-Dudley Syndrome

Alobar Holoprosencephaly

Alpers Disease

Alpha Mannosidosis - Type II and III

ALS/Parkinsonism Dementia Complex

Alstrom Syndrome

Alveolar Soft Part Sarcoma

Amegakaryocytic Thrombocytopenia

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

Anaplastic Adrenal Cancer - Adult with distant metastases or inoperable, unresectable or recurrent

Anaplastic Ependymoma

Angelman Syndrome

Angiosarcoma

Aortic Atresia

Aplastic Anemia

Astrocytoma - Grade III and IV

Ataxia Telangiectasia

Atypical Teratoid/Rhabdoid Tumor

Batten Disease

Beta Thalassemia Major

Bilateral Optic Atrophy- Infantile

Bilateral Retinoblastoma

Bladder Cancer - with distant metastases or inoperable or unresectable

Breast Cancer - with distant metastases or inoperable or unresectable

Canavan Disease (CD)

CACH--Vanishing White Matter Disease-Infantile and Childhood Onset Forms

Calciphylaxis

Carcinoma of Unknown Primary Site

Cardiac Amyloidosis- AL Type

Caudal Regression Syndrome - Types III and IV

CDKL5 Deficiency Disorder

Cerebro Oculo Facio Skeletal (COFS) Syndrome

Cerebrotendinous Xanthomatosis

Charlevoix-Saguenay Spastic Ataxia (New)

Child Lymphoblastic Lymphoma

Child Lymphoma

Child Neuroblastoma - with distant metastases or recurrent Cholangiocarcinoma

Chondrosarcoma - with multimodal therapy

Choroid Plexus Carcinoma (New)

Chronic Idiopathic Intestinal Pseudo Obstruction

Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) - Blast Phase

CIC-rearranged Sarcoma (New)

Coffin-Lowry Syndrome

Congenital Lymphedema

Congenital Myotonic Dystrophy

Congenital Zika Syndrome (New)

Cornelia de Lange Syndrome - Classic Form

Corticobasal Degeneration

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) – Adult

Cri du Chat Syndrome

Degos Disease - Systemic

DeSanctis Cacchione Syndrome

Desmoplastic Mesothelioma (New)

Desmoplastic Small Round Cell Tumors

Dravet Syndrome

Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy- Adult (New)

Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease

Edwards Syndrome (Trisomy 18)

Eisenmenger Syndrome

Endometrial Stromal Sarcoma

Endomyocardial Fibrosis

Ependymoblastoma (Child Brain Cancer)

Erdheim Chester Disease

Esophageal Cancer

Esthesioneuroblastoma

Ewing Sarcoma

Farber Disease (FD) – Infantile

Fatal Familial Insomnia

Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva

Fibrolamellar Cancer

Follicular Dendritic Cell Sarcoma - metastatic or recurrent FOXG1 Syndrome

Friedreichs Ataxia (FRDA)

Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD), Picks Disease -Type A – Adult

Fryns Syndrome

Fucosidosis - Type 1

Fukuyama Congenital Muscular Dystrophy

Fulminant Giant Cell Myocarditis

Galactosialidosis - Early and Late Infantile Types

Gallbladder Cancer

Gaucher Disease (GD) - Type 2

Giant Axonal Neuropathy

Glioblastoma Multiforme (Brain Cancer)

Glioma Grade III and IV

Glutaric Acidemia - Type II

GM1 Gangliosidosis - Infantile and Juvenile Forms

Head and Neck Cancers - with distant metastasis or inoperable or unresectable

Heart Transplant Graft Failure

Heart Transplant Wait List - 1A/1B

Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) - Familial Type

Hepatoblastoma

Hepatopulmonary Syndrome

Hepatorenal Syndrome

Histiocytosis Syndromes

Hoyeraal-Hreidarsson Syndrome

Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome

Hydranencephaly

Hypocomplementemic Urticarial Vasculitis Syndrome

Hypophosphatasia Perinatal (Lethal) and Infantile Onset Types

Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome

I Cell Disease

Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis

Infantile Free Sialic Acid Storage Disease

Infantile Neuroaxonal Dystrophy (INAD)

Infantile Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinoses

Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC)

Intracranial Hemangiopericytoma

Jervell and Lange-Nielsen Syndrome

Joubert Syndrome

Junctional Epidermolysis Bullosa - Lethal Type

Juvenile Onset Huntington Disease

Kidney Cancer - inoperable or unresectable

Kleefstra Syndrome

Krabbe Disease (KD) – Infantile

Kufs Disease - Type A and B

Large Intestine Cancer - with distant metastasis or inoperable, unresectable or recurrent>

Late Infantile Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinoses Leber Congenital Amaurosis

Leigh’s Disease

Leiomyosarcoma

Leptomeningeal Carcinomatosis

Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome (LNS)

Lewy Body Dementia

Liposarcoma - metastatic or recurrent

Lissencephaly

Liver Cancer

Lowe Syndrome

Lymphomatoid Granulomatosis - Grade III

Malignant Brain Stem Gliomas – Childhood

Malignant Ectomesenchymoma

Malignant Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor

Malignant Germ Cell Tumor

Malignant Multiple Sclerosis

Malignant Renal Rhabdoid Tumor

Mantle Cell Lymphoma (MCL)

Maple Syrup Urine Disease

Marshall-Smith Syndrome

Mastocytosis - Type IV

MECP2 Duplication Syndrome

Medulloblastoma - with metastases

Megacystis Microcolon Intestinal Hypoperistalsis Syndrome

Megalencephaly Capillary Malformation Syndrome

Menkes Disease - Classic or Infantile Onset Form

Merkel Cell Carcinoma - with metastases

Merosin Deficient Congenital Muscular Dystrophy

Metachromatic Leukodystrophy (MLD) - Late Infantile Metastatic Endometrial Adenocarcinoma

Mitral Valve Atresia

Mixed Dementias

MPS I, formerly known as Hurler Syndrome

MPS II, formerly known as Hunter Syndrome

MPS III, formerly known as Sanfilippo Syndrome

Mucosal Malignant Melanoma

Multicentric Castleman Disease

Multiple System Atrophy

Myoclonic Epilepsy with Ragged Red Fibers Syndrome

Neonatal Adrenoleukodystrophy

Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis

Neurodegeneration with Brain Iron Accumulation - Types 1 and 2

NFU-1 Mitochondrial Disease

Nicolaides-Baraister Syndrome

Niemann-Pick Disease (NPD) - Type A

Niemann-Pick Disease-Type C

Nonketotic Hyperglycinemia

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Obliterative Bronchiolitis

Ohtahara Syndrome

Oligodendroglioma Brain Cancer- Grade III

Ornithine Transcarbamylase (OTC) Deficiency

Orthochromatic Leukodystrophy with Pigmented Glia

Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) - Type II

Osteosarcoma, formerly known as Bone Cancer - with distant metastases or inoperable or unresectable

Ovarian Cancer – with distant metastases or inoperable or unresectable

Pallister-Killian Syndrome

Pancreatic Cancer Paraneoplastic Cerebellar Degeneration

Paraneoplastic Pemphigus

Patau Syndrome (Trisomy 13)

Pearson Syndrome

Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease-Classic Form

Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease-Connatal Form

Pericardial Mesothelioma (New)

Peripheral Nerve Cancer - metastatic or recurrent

Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Peritoneal Mucinous Carcinomatosis

Perry Syndrome

Phelan-McDermid Syndrome Pineoblastoma - Childhood

Pitt Hopkins Syndrome

Pleural Mesothelioma

Pompe Disease – Infantile

Primary Central Nervous System Lymphoma

Primary Effusion Lymphoma Primary Omental Cancer

Primary Peritoneal Cancer

Primary Progressive Aphasia

Progressive Bulbar Palsy

Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy

Progressive Supranuclear Palsy

Prostate Cancer - Hormone Refractory Disease – or with visceral metastases

Pulmonary Atresia

Pulmonary Kaposi Sarcoma

Refractory Hodgkin Lymphoma (New)

Renpenning Syndrome (New)

Retinopathy of Prematurity - Stage V

Rett (RTT) Syndrome

Revesz Syndrome

Rhabdomyosarcoma

Rhizomelic Chondrodysplasia Punctata

Richter Syndrome

Roberts Syndrome

Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome

Salivary Cancers Sarcomatoid Carcinoma of the Lung - Stages II - IV

Sandhoff Disease

Schindler Disease - Type 1

SCN8A Related Epilepsy with Encephalopathy (New)

Seckel Syndrome

Secondary Adenocarcinoma of the Brain

Severe Combined Immunodeficiency - Childhood

Single Ventricle

Sinonasal Cancer

Sjogren-Larsson Syndrome

Skin Malignant Melanoma with Metastases

Small Cell Cancer (Large Intestine, Prostate or Thymus)

Small Cell Cancer of the Female Genital Tract

Small Cell Lung Cancer

Small Intestine Cancer - with distant metastases or inoperable, unresectable or recurrent

Smith Lemli Opitz Syndrome

Soft Tissue Sarcoma - with distant metastases or recurrent

Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) - Types 0 and 1

Spinal Nerve Root Cancer-metastatic or recurrent

Spinocerebellar Ataxia

Stiff Person Syndrome

Stomach Cancer - with distant metastases or inoperable, unresectable or recurrent

Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis

Superficial Siderosis of the Central Nervous System

SYNGAP1-related NSID (New)

Tabes Dorsalis

Tay Sachs Disease - Infantile Type

Taybi-Linder Syndrome (New)

Tetrasomy 18p

Thanatophoric Dysplasia - Type 1

Thyroid Cancer

Transplant Coronary Artery Vasculopathy

Tricuspid Atresia Trisomy 9

Ullrich Congenital Muscular Dystrophy

Ureter Cancer - with distant metastases or inoperable, unresectable or recurrent

Usher Syndrome - Type I

Ventricular Assist Device Recipient - Left, Right, or Biventricular

Walker Warburg Syndrome

Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome

Wolman Disease

X-Linked Lymphoproliferative Disease

X-Linked Myotubular Myopathy

Xeroderma Pigmentosum

Zellweger Syndrome

What Conditions Qualify FAQ

What conditions automatically qualify you for disability?

Compassionate allowance cases or TERI cases qualify you for disability. You’ll still have to meet work history or income and asset requirements — more on those here. We’ve listed all the compassionate allowance conditions for 2024 here.

What medical conditions qualify for disability?

Many conditions can qualify for Social Security disability, as long as they’re severe enough to keep you from working. We’ve helped clients get disability benefits for a wide range of health issues — from diabetes, to Crohn’s, to anxiety, to cancer.

What heart conditions qualify for disability?

Many common cardiovascular and heart conditions that qualify for disability benefits, including: Aneurysms (especially if you experience consistent chest pain), Congestive heart failure (especially if you’ve had to be hospitalized due to episodes), Coronary artery disease, and Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS).

What back conditions qualify for disability?

Many back conditions qualify for disability — in particular those that limit your ability to easily walk, sit, stand, or lift items. If you have back pain or limited mobility when performing basic physical tasks, you’re likely a good candidate for benefits. In fact, 30.1% of disability recipients receive benefits for orthopedic or musculoskeletal disorders.


Related resources:

Qualifying for Disability: Everything You Should Know

A hand drawn image of the lead disability lawyer.
By Jackie Jakab

Is it Hard to Get Disability for Mental Illness? (Yes, But This Can Help)

Hand-drawn image on a woman smiling.
By Sydney Hershenhorn

See what you qualify for

How long has your condition made it hard to work?

References

  1. 1.
    Social Security Administration,” Social Security Administration, Social Security Administration, published October 1, 2023, accessed May 16, 2024, https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/statcomps/di_asr/2022/di_asr22.pdf.
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney

Jackie Jakab

Lead Attorney

Jackie Jakab is Atticus’s Legal Director. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, and has counseled thousands of people seeking disability benefits.
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