Meeting A Social Security Disability Listing - How Strict Is The Language Criteria

Asked about 1 year ago - Oklahoma City, OK

Based upon the SSA medical listing of 14.09C1, it states (in part):

C. Ankylosing spondylitis or other spondyloarthropathies, with:

1. Ankylosis (fixation) of the dorsolumbar or cervical spine as shown by appropriate medically acceptable imaging and measured on physical examination at 45° or more of flexion from the vertical position (zero degrees); or

For the sake of argument, a claimant can show x-rays (and radiology reports) of SI joint fusion in addition to multiple areas of fusion throughout the spine. A thoracic kyphosis is measured at "approximately 42°". If the claim comes down to a decision solely based upon a step 3 evaluation, would "approx 42°" be credited for 14.09C1? In my research, I have many documents stating there is a medically accepted tolerance of 5°.

Additional information

Would the SSA consider 42° as meeting this listing, or would they make an issue out of an "approximate" measurement of only 3° difference? Would the SSA consider medical research pertaining to medically accepted values of human error when it comes to these types of measurements?

Does anyone have a different definition of what this listing criteria means? Some people think the 45° measurement means how much a claimant can "bend". I'm not sure there is any ONE interpretation of how this listing criteria is defined.

Attorney answers (4)

  1. Clifford Michael Farrell

    Contributor Level 19


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . As a general rule, most judges require you to have all the findings to "meet" the listing. Otherwise, if you do not exactly meet the listing but have other medical problems, SSA will consider first whether the combination "equals" a listing - the combo effect is just as bad as the primary condition alone - or decide what you are still able to do despite your impairments.

    SSA cases are not easy any more. You might want to consider talking to a local attorney. You may contact your local city, county or state bar association to see if they have a lawyer referral program, or you may contact your local legal aid office if you cannot afford an attorney. If there is a law school in your area, you may contact their legal clinic as well.

    You may also contact the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives (NOSSCR) for the name and email address or telephone number of attorneys in your area. The telephone number for the lawyer referral service of NOSSCR is 1-800-431-2804. NOSSCR's website is

    In addition, you can find a Board certified specialist in Social Security by contacting the National Board of Trial Advocacy. They evaluate lawyers (independently) in many types of claims and require extensive experience and testing before a lawyer is certified. They have a section specifically for Social Security: The National Board of Social Security Disability Advocacy, Divisions of the National Board of Legal Specialty Certification.

    Their link is:

    I hope this information helps. Good luck to you!
    Please remember to designate a best answer to your question.

    The exact answers to questions like this require more information than presented. The answer(s) provided should... more
  2. Amanda Hope Meadows

    Contributor Level 12


    Lawyers agree


    Answered . I think that this question really depends on your judge and the other impairments they have in conjunction with the spinal issues. I have seen strict adherence to the listings by some judges vs not so strict by others (including one judge who ruled on this listing without the claimant having a flex test in the file).

    This comment is provided for informational purposes only, and is not to be considered legal advice and/or the... more
  3. Clint Curtis

    Contributor Level 16


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . It is extremely rare that your condition will meet the listing. The exception is for mental conditions which can be meet using multiple lists. Essentially, you are trying to show that your condition is comparable or exceeds the listing.

    Disclaimer Information on this site is provided by attorney Clint Curtis as general information and not specific... more
  4. Kenneth A Prigmore

    Contributor Level 8


    Lawyer agrees

    Answered . The difference in degrees doesn't matter, though any evidence you can bring in to show the medically accepted tolerance can be helpful. If you have a disability of any sort, and it affects your ability to work, get medical evidence (usually a diagnosis) of the disability and add it to your case. The judge will review everything you give them, so don't withhold less than perfect evidence simply because it doesn't meet a rule. Some judges can be very flexible, so put everything you have into it and see what happens. If you don't have an SSDI attorney, you are taking a real risk as there are so many exceptions and details they will know to look for due to experience. I highly recommend you consider retaining an attorney for your hearing. This will be your best opportunity to win your claim, and your attorney will only be awarded 25% of your past due benefits up to $6,000.

    As may be stated elsewhere on this site, my comments should not be construed as legal advice. Until I have signed... more

Can't find what you're looking for? Ask a Lawyer

Get free answers from experienced attorneys.


Ask now

26,955 answers this week

3,016 attorneys answering

Ask a Lawyer

Get answers from top-rated lawyers.

  • It's FREE
  • It's easy
  • It's anonymous

26,955 answers this week

3,016 attorneys answering