TN 8 (03-17)

DI 24501.020 Establishing a Medically Determinable Impairment (MDI)

A. Definitions

For the purposes of determining whether the claimant has a “medically determinable impairment (MDI)”, the following definitions apply:

  • Objective medical evidence means signs, laboratory findings, or both.

  • Signs are one or more anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities that are observable, apart from the claimant’s statements (description of symptoms). Signs must be shown by medically acceptable clinical diagnostic techniques. Psychiatric signs are medically demonstrable phenomena that indicate specific psychological abnormalities, e.g., abnormalities of behavior, mood, thought, memory, orientation, development, or perception. Psychiatric signs must be shown by observable facts that can be medically described and evaluated.

  • Laboratory findings are one or more anatomical, physiological, or psychological phenomena that can be shown by the use of medically acceptable laboratory diagnostic techniques. Diagnostic techniques include chemical tests (such as blood tests), electrophysiological studies (such as electrocardiograms and electroencephalograms), medical imaging (such as X-rays), and psychological tests.

NOTE: Symptoms are the claimant’s own description of his or her physical or mental impairment(s). Symptoms cannot establish the existence of an MDI.

B. Establishing the existence of an MDI

We need objective medical evidence from an acceptable medical source (AMS) to establish the existence of an MDI. See DI 22505.003 Evidence from an Acceptable Medical Source (AMS).

We cannot establish a MDI using any other kind of evidence, including:

  • A claimant’s statement about his or her symptoms,

  • A diagnosis, or

  • A medical opinion.

C. Symptom Evaluation

Only after we establish the claimant has an MDI based on objective medical evidence from an AMS, can we then evaluate the extent to which symptoms may affect the claimant’s ability to perform work-related activities for an adult or ability to function independently, appropriately, and effectively in an age-appropriate manner for a child under age 18.

If there is no MDI, or if the established MDI could not reasonably be expected to produce the claimant’s symptoms, we will find those symptoms do not affect the ability to perform work-related activities for an adult or the ability to function independently, appropriately, and effectively in an age-appropriate manner for a child under age 18.

For a detailed discussion on how to evaluate symptoms, see Social Security Ruling 16-3p: Titles II and XVI: Evaluation of Symptoms in Disability Claims and DI 24501.021: Evaluating Symptoms.


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0424501020
DI 24501.020 - Establishing a Medically Determinable Impairment (MDI) - 03/27/2017
Batch run: 03/28/2017
Rev:03/27/2017