Woman with medical disabilityConsidering applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)? If you've spent any time looking at the application forms, you've probably come across the term “medically determinable impairment” or MDI and wondered what it meant and how it relates to your claim for benefits. Fortunately, you've come to the right place for answers.

A medically determinable impairment is a physical or mental disability that can be proved with medical evidence from acceptable medical sources or AMS. Having an MDI is key to qualifying for SSDI. Here's what you need to know about medically determinable impairments and how Keefe Disability Law's skilled Boston attorneys can help you prove your disability to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and collect the benefits you deserve.

How the SSA Defines Medically Determinable Impairments 

The SSA has a strict definition of disability. To qualify for SSDI, you must have an MDI – “a physical or mental impairment that results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which can be shown by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.” Qualifying conditions and the medical criteria you must meet for approval are found in the SSA's Blue Book Listing of Impairments. The book recognizes 14 categories of disabilities, ranging from musculoskeletal disorders (Section 1.00) to diseases that affect the immune system (Section 14.00). Examples of qualifying MDIs include:

  • Vision or hearing loss
  • Asthma
  • Cystic fibrosis 
  • Thyroid gland disorders
  • Various cancers
  • Symptomatic congenital heart disease
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Chronic kidney disease (with impairment of kidney function)
  • Epilepsy
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease)
  • Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders
  • Depressive and bipolar-related disorders
  • Lupus
  • HIV

Proving Your MDI

MDIs “must be established by objective medical evidence, such as signs or laboratory findings (or both) from an acceptable medical source, not on an individual's statement of symptoms.” In other words, the SSA won't simply take your word for it that you have a medically determinable impairment severe enough to prevent substantial gainful activity. Examples of objective medical evidence include the results of various chemical tests (such as blood tests), electrophysiological studies (such as electrocardiograms and electroencephalograms), medical imaging (such as X-rays), and psychological tests. Attending regular appointments with your treating physicians and making sure to convey the functional limitation your condition causes – like being unable to sit or stand for long periods or struggling with fine motor control  – is essential to proving your MDI and SSDI eligibility to the SSA.

How Our Boston SSDI Lawyers Can Help With Your Claim

Since 1994, Keefe Disability Law's exceptional attorneys have helped disabled clients throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island apply for – and obtain – much-needed benefits. Having assisted thousands of clients with their applications and appeals, we know exactly what the SSA is looking for in terms of medical evidence and can help you avoid preventable mistakes in your application paperwork, two of the most common reasons claims are denied.

If you're suffering from a medically determinable impairment and can no longer work or engage in substantial gainful activity, you may qualify for SSDI, but there's far too much at stake to go it alone. Thankfully, you don't have to. Keefe Disability Law offers adept and aggressive representation for SSDI and SSI claims. Ready to get started on your disability application and want to know exactly how we can help? Talk to us about your claim.

Schedule a Consultation 

Complete the online contact form or call 508-283-5500 to schedule a free initial consultation with a member of our accomplished Boston legal team. For additional information, request a complimentary download of the guide, 7 Costly Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Social Security Disability Claim.


John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney, Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyer