(a) What is medical equivalence? Your impairment(s) is medically equivalent to a listed impairment in appendix 1 if it is at least equal in severity and duration to the criteria of any listed impairment.
(b) How do we determine medical equivalence? We can find medical equivalence in three ways.
(1)(i) If you have an impairment that is described in appendix 1, but -
(A) You do not exhibit one or more of the findings specified in the particular listing, or
(B) You exhibit all of the findings, but one or more of the findings is not as severe as specified in the particular listing,
(ii) We will find that your impairment is medically equivalent to that listing if you have other findings related to your impairment that are at least of equal medical significance to the required criteria.
(2) If you have an impairment(s) that is not described in appendix 1, we will compare your findings with those for closely analogous listed impairments. If the findings related to your impairment(s) are at least of equal medical significance to those of a listed impairment, we will find that your impairment(s) is medically equivalent to the analogous listing.
(3) If you have a combination of impairments, no one of which meets a listing (see § 404.1525(c)(3)), we will compare your findings with those for closely analogous listed impairments. If the findings related to your impairments are at least of equal medical significance to those of a listed impairment, we will find that your combination of impairments is medically equivalent to that listing.
(4) Section 404.1529(d)(3) explains how we consider your symptoms, such as pain, when we make findings about medical equivalence.
(c) What evidence do we consider when we determine if your impairment(s) medically equals a listing? When we determine if your impairment medically equals a listing, we consider all evidence in your case record about your impairment(s) and its effects on you that is relevant to this finding. We do not consider your vocational factors of age, education, and work experience (see, for example, § 404.1560(c)(1)). We also consider the opinion given by one or more medical or psychological consultants designated by the Commissioner. (See § 404.1616.)
(d) Who is a designated medical or psychological consultant? A medical or psychological consultant designated by the Commissioner includes any medical or psychological consultant employed or engaged to make medical judgments by the Social Security Administration, the Railroad Retirement Board, or a State agency authorized to make disability determinations. See § 404.1616 for the necessary qualifications for medical consultants and psychological consultants.
(e) Who is responsible for determining medical equivalence?
(1) In cases where the State agency or other designee of the Commissioner makes the initial or reconsideration disability determination, a State agency medical or psychological consultant or other designee of the Commissioner (see § 404.1616 of this part) has the overall responsibility for determining medical equivalence.
(2) For cases in the disability hearing process or otherwise decided by a disability hearing officer, the responsibility for determining medical equivalence rests with either the disability hearing officer or, if the disability hearing officer's reconsideration determination is changed under § 404.918 of this part, with the Associate Commissioner for Disability Policy or his or her delegate.
(3) For cases at the administrative law judge or Appeals Council level, the responsibility for deciding medical equivalence rests with the administrative law judge or Appeals Council.