What Is a Medically Determinable Impairment for SSDI or SSI?

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Question

What does "medically determinable impairment" mean? After I applied for disability benefits, Social Security said I don't have one.

Answer

Before you can qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you have to prove that you have a "medically determinable" physical or mental impairment that is severe enough to prevent you from working. (For a child, the impairment must medically determinable and severe enough to cause marked and severe functional limitations.)

A medically determinable impairment is defined by the Social Security Administration (SSA) asan impairment that results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities that can be shown by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.” In other words, the SSA will not approve disability payments based on symptoms alone, without confirmation by clinical or laboratory findings.

Physiological impairments are conditions that are causing harm to you physically, such as muscle problems, cancer, HIV, heart disease, and so on. Psychological impairments are those conditions causing harm to your mental health, such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and so on. 

The SSA needs to see medical evidence of a physiological (physical) or psychological (mental) impairment that reveals signs, symptoms, and laboratory findings to consider you for disability benefits. For instance, chronic pain without a diagnosis that would likely cause such pain will not qualify for disability benefits. Disability claims examiners want to see a medical record with solid medical evidence documenting the condition. For more information, see our section on medical evidence.

Updated by: , J.D.

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