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Navigating the Social Security Disability: Understanding Musculoskeletal Disorders and Connective Tissue Diseases as Qualifying Impairments

In the face of debilitating musculoskeletal disorders and connective tissue diseases, many individuals find themselves unable to maintain employment and secure financial stability. The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes the severity of these conditions and offers disability benefits to those who meet the eligibility criteria. However, navigating the complex application process can be daunting, especially when it comes to demonstrating the severity of musculoskeletal and connective tissue impairments.

Understanding Musculoskeletal Disorders and Connective Tissue Diseases

Musculoskeletal disorders and connective tissue diseases encompass a wide range of conditions that affect the bones,joints, muscles, and connective tissues throughout the body. These conditions can lead to a variety of symptoms,including:

  • Pain: This can be chronic or intermittent, and it can range from mild to severe.

  • Stiffness and limited range of motion: This can make it difficult to perform everyday activities, such as walking,climbing stairs, and reaching for objects.

  • Weakness: This can make it difficult to lift objects or perform tasks that require muscle strength.

  • Fatigue: This can make it difficult to maintain a normal level of activity.

Some of the most common musculoskeletal disorders and connective tissue diseases that can qualify for Social Security disability benefits include:

  • Osteoarthritis: This is the most common type of arthritis, and it is caused by the breakdown of cartilage in the joints.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis: This is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the joints, leading to pain,stiffness, and deformity.

  • Lupus: This is an autoimmune disease that affects multiple organs in the body, including the joints, skin, and kidneys.

  • Fibromyalgia: This is a chronic condition that causes widespread pain, fatigue, and other symptoms.

  • Degenerative disc disease: This is a condition that causes the discs between the vertebrae in the spine to break down, leading to pain, numbness, and weakness.

Meeting the Eligibility Criteria for Disability Benefits

To qualify for Social Security disability benefits based on a musculoskeletal disorder or connective tissue disease, an individual must meet the following criteria:

  1. Be unable to engage in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA): SGA is defined as any work activity that is considered meaningful in the national economy. This means that the individual must be unable to perform any job for which they could earn more than a substantial gainful activity amount (SGAA), which is periodically updated by the SSA.

  2. Have a medically determinable impairment that meets the requirements of the Listing of Impairments (Blue Book): The Blue Book is a compilation of medical conditions and their associated criteria that the SSA uses to determine disability. Musculoskeletal disorders and connective tissue diseases are listed in Sections 1.00 and 14.00 of the Blue Book.

  3. The impairment is expected to last for at least one year or result in death: This means that the individual’s condition is either expected to last for at least 12 consecutive months or is expected to result in death.

Gathering Evidence to Support Your Claim

To strengthen your claim for disability benefits, it is crucial to gather comprehensive medical evidence that documents the severity of your musculoskeletal disorder or connective tissue disease. This evidence may include:

  • Medical records: These include all relevant medical records from doctors, rheumatologists, chiropractors, and other healthcare providers. Records should detail the diagnosis, treatment history, and any limitations in activities of daily living (ADLs).

  • Diagnostic imaging studies: These include X-rays, MRI scans, and CT scans, which can provide information about the structure of bones, joints, and soft tissues.

  • Laboratory tests: These include blood tests and other laboratory tests that can help identify or rule out specific conditions.

  • Functional capacity evaluations (FCEs): These evaluations assess an individual’s ability to perform physical activities related to work, such as lifting, carrying, and sitting/standing for extended periods.

  • Vocational expert testimony: A vocational expert can evaluate your work skills, education, and transferable skills to determine if you can perform any other type of work that is considered SGA.

Seeking Legal Assistance

The Social Security disability application process can be complex and time-consuming. It is highly advisable to seek legal assistance from an experienced attorney who specializes in Social Security disability law. An attorney can help you navigate the process, gather evidence, and prepare a strong case that demonstrates your eligibility for benefits.


Musculoskeletal disorders and connective tissue diseases can have a profound impact on an individual’s ability to work and maintain financial stability. Social Security disability benefits offer a lifeline to those who are unable to engage in SGA due to these debilitating conditions. By understanding the eligibility criteria and gathering comprehensive medical evidence, individuals can increase their chances of securing the benefits they deserve.

Bob Kraft

I am a Dallas, Texas lawyer who has had the privilege of helping thousands of clients since 1971 in the areas of Personal Injury law and Social Security Disability.

About This Blog

The title of this blog reflects my attitude toward those government agencies and insurance companies that routinely mistreat injured or disabled people. As a Dallas, Texas lawyer, I've spent more than 45 years trying to help those poor folk, and I have been frustrated daily by the actions of the people on the other side of their claims. (Sorry if I offended you...)

If you find this type of information interesting or helpful, please visit my law firm's main website at You will find many more articles and links. Thank you for your time.

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