col New standards set for disability benefits

By Ken Oestreich

Social security administration

Social Security has updated the medical standards that will be used to evaluate musculoskeletal impairments in deciding whether a person is eligible for Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits.

The revised standards are the first changes made in this area in 16 years and take into account advances in medical knowledge, diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal impairments.

Musculoskeletal impairments are some of the leading causes of disability in the United States. They include back and spine disorders, shoulder, elbow, knee and hip problems, bone fractures, amputations and soft tissue injuries, including burns.


Of 5.3 million people getting Social Security disability benefits, more than one million are eligible because of a musculoskeletal impairment. Of the 5.4 million people who receive SSI disability, about 300,000 do so because of musculoskeletal impairment

People who apply for Social Security or SSI disability benefits after Feb. 19, 2002, as well as those who have claims in the appeals process, will be evaluated using the new standards.

Current beneficiaries with musculoskeletal impairments will not be disadvantaged because the standards have changed. The rules under which they originally qualified for disability benefits will be considered in later disability evaluations.

Visit for more details about the medical criteria and the various revisions.

Ken Oestreich is manager of the Rochester Social Security office.

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