As discussed on this web site, most successful Social Security disability claimants do not meet a listing. Social Security has intentionally made the listings very difficult to meet – both in terms of the severity of the underlying medical condition, and because of the evidentiary requirements for a particular listing.
Remember that Social Security defines “disability” in terms of your work activity limitations that result from one or more medical problems. While I use the listings as a framework to identify what is wrong with you medically, the big picture in your disability case has to do with identifying specific work limitations that leave you unable to perform work.
Most Cases are Not Listing Level Claims
Most cases I see are not “listing level” claims. Instead, I argue for disability based on my client’s limited functional capacity for work or I argue that he or she meets one of the grids.
Further, I find that most listing level cases are decided fairly early on in the process. Social Security adjudicators – who are not judges, but function essentially as claims adjustors – are trained to spot listing level cases. So, when you hear about a friend of a friend who was approved after losing a leg due to diabetes, or who is bedridden with heart issues, that person most likely was approved by an adjudicator early on in the process.
It has been my experience that judges tend not to approve based on a listing, but instead prefer to grant approvals based on functional capacity arguments. Since around 50% of claimants who reach a hearing are approved, clearly it is not necessary to meet a listing to win approval from Social Security disability.