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What does SSDI consider a severe impairment?

Individuals who have a disability may qualify for benefits with the Social Security Disability Insurance program. The Social Security Administration defines a severe impairment as any mental or physical issue or issues that prevent a person from conducting even the most basic activities required for employment.

Review the eligibility requirements of SSDI for a severe physical or mental impairment.

Criteria for severe impairment

Severe impairment means the person cannot work at all. This can occur because of one physical or mental health issue or a combination of issues. Even a health problem that would not alone cause severe impairment may be debilitating in combination with a second such ailment.

Evidence of impairment

The SSA reviews an SSDI applicant’s medical records and work history to determine whether he or she has a severe impairment that merits benefits. A person applying for SSDI should include comprehensive documentation such as:

  • Complete medical records that date from the start of disability to the present
  • A list of prescription drugs and why the health care provider has prescribed these medications, the dosage and the frequency
  • Names and contact information for all the medical facilities where the person has received treatment for the disabling conditions
  • A complete history of employment for at least 15 years, including employer, dates worked, title and duties

Incomplete information can cause the delay or denial of an SSDI application, which the applicant may appeal. Providing extensive evidence that displays long-term, severe impairment increases the likelihood that SSA will recognize a person’s inability to work because of his or her condition or conditions.