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'Medically determinable impairment' an important phrase for SSDI

Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits in New Jersey can seem like having to learn a new language at times. Federal statutes and regulations tend to use their own kind of jargon, and the definitions of certain words and phrases can get very specific. Further, such phrases are not always amenable to decoding through simple common sense. One such phrase important to SSDI claims is 'medically determinable impairment.'

For an SSDI claim to succeed, a baseline test is that the applicant have a medically determinable impairment. According to the Social Security Administration's (SSA)Guide for Health Professionals, or 'green book,' this phrase means that the applicant must first have an anatomical, mental, or physiological impairment. Further, this impairment must be able to be documented by accepted medical techniques. Such techniques might include lab tests, physical examination or other clinical or laboratory diagnostics. This means that having only a patient's self-reported symptoms, without some sort of empirical medical evidence, may prove insufficient for documenting an injury or disability.

To determine if the applicant has a medically determinable impairment, the New Jersey state Disability Determination Services (DDS) will first look to the medical records provided by the applicant or received by request from the applicant's physician. If there is not enough information there, the applicant may be requested to get a physical (or psychological) evaluation by a medical professional. It is preferable that this be done by the applicant's doctor, but the state DDS may order an exam by an independent physician instead.

It is important to remember that showing a medically determinable impairment is only the first step to getting SSDI benefits. There are other hurdles to clear as well. If you have questions about applying for disability benefits, you may wish to consider consulting an experienced New Jersey SSD benefits attorney.

Source:, "Consultative examinations: A guide for health professionals," accessed Aug. 3, 2015

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