What's Considered a "Medically Determinable Impairment"?

Submitted by Daniel on

Qualifying and being approved for Social Security Disability is not as simple as reporting symptoms you claim are disabling to the SSA in your disability application. The SSA has a very specific definition of what qualifies as a disability. In layman’s terms, the SSA’s definition of a disability is the inability to work and earn sufficient income because of a medically verifiable condition expected to last at least twelve months.

The specific term used by the SSA to define an acceptable disabling condition is “medically determinable impairment.” This is any physical or mental condition which can be medically documented, tested for, and verified using standardized methods. As stated, you cannot simply report your symptoms without any supporting medical evidence for your condition and expect to receive an approval for disability benefits.

If you are experiencing symptoms which are keeping you from properly performing your job, you need to seek medical care and evaluation. Based on your symptoms and various laboratory tests they may perform, your doctor can provide a conclusive diagnosis of your condition. This is essential to your application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

Your doctor cannot vouch for your disability status with the SSA in so many words, but can answer questions regarding their assessment of the impact of your condition on your ability to perform certain movements and complete basic job tasks. Having your treating physician (the SSA’s preferred source of medical evidence in a disability claim) complete an RFC, or Residual Functional Capacity Form is an important part of your Social Security Disability evaluation.

If the medical documentation available when you file for disability benefits does not provide sufficient enough proof for the diagnosis of your condition, the SSA may require additional tests to be performed, known as CEs. As always, the SSA prefers to get this information from the doctor who has treated you all along and has the most knowledge of your condition over the long term. If your doctor is incapable of diagnosing you, you may want to be referred to a specialist. Otherwise, the SSA will use the services of its own network of licensed, qualified healthcare professionals to examine you and/or obtain the tests to determine if your disability is valid.

Although symptoms cannot stand alone in proving your need for disability benefits to the SSA’s determination services, they are a start. Make sure you are providing detailed information about your symptoms to your physician so they are able to diagnose you correctly, and you are able to qualify for the disability benefits you need.

Be persistent. If your physician is not providing any leads or answers for why you are experiencing symptoms that are affecting your ability to work and complete basic tasks, you may want to take your case elsewhere. A good doctor will do everything they can to reach an accurate diagnosis so you can receive the proper treatment, therapy, and possible benefits your condition requires. 

Additional Resources 

Add new comment

Find Out If I Qualify for Benefits!