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Impairment, Disability and Handicap

Impairment is a medical evaluation that determines the state of being diminished, weakened or damaged either mentally or physically. Disability is the consequence of an impairment that may be physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, developmental, or some combination of these. A disability may be present from birth or may occur during a person’s lifetime. A handicap is a disadvantage that makes achievement unusually difficult, it results when a disability or impairment limits or prevents the fulfillment of a role. Impairment is a medical determination, whereas a disability determination is performed by the government/legal/insurance agencies.

In the United States of America, the Social Security and Supplemental Security income disability programs are federal programs that provide assistance to people with disabilities. Social Security disability insurance pays benefits to the patient and certain members of the patient’s family if you are “insured,” meaning that you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes. Supplemental Security Income pays benefits based on financial need. When a patient applies for either program, the agency will collect medical and other information, and make a decision whether or not you meet Social Security’s definition of disability.

The disability determination process is either predetermined by the company you had a disability policy with or through a network of local Social Security Administration field offices and state agencies whose responsibility it is to collect evidence and making determination regarding the status of disability.

We encourage all of our patients to choose ability over disability and to remember that disability does not mean inability.

To learn more about Dr. Cotler or to schedule an appointment, please call us on (713) 523-8884.

Howard B. Cotler, MD, FACS, FAAOS is board certified and recertified in Orthopedic Surgery. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgery and the American College of Surgeons.

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