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The Medical Impairment

To be found disabled under the Social Security Act, an individual must show the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity due to a medically determinable severe impairment or combination of impairments expected to result in death or last at least twelve continuous months. The impairment(s) must meet a few basic criteria to qualify as a medically determinable severe impairment.

First, to be medically determinable, the impairment must be diagnosed by a licensed physician. Certified psychologists, licensed optometrists, podiatrists, or qualified speech-language pathologists may also be considered an acceptable medical source under 20 CFR §404.1502 and §416.902 for the purpose of establishing impairments in limited areas. Mid-level practitioners, chiropractors, and educational personnel may also provide opinions to show the severity of the impairment(s) and how it affects the individual’s ability to function, though they are not considered an acceptable medical source under SSR 06-3p.

The medical impairment must also be severe. While your medical providers may use differing words to characterize your condition, a medical impairment is considered severe under SSR 85-28 if it has more than a minimal impact on your ability to work.

Lastly, the severe medical impairment must meet duration, which means it is projected to result in death or last at least twelve continuous months. In considering duration, it is the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity because of the impairment that must last the required twelve month period. Under SSR 82-52, severe impairments lasting less than twelve months cannot be combined with successive, unrelated impairments to meet the duration requirement. However, an individual whose twelve month duration is interrupted by an unsuccessful work attempt may still be entitled to benefits under SSR 84-25 if the work attempt lasted less than six months.

To find out whether your conditions qualify for Social Security Disability, you should contact a licensed attorney.

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