Disability Determination And Impairment Rating

In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan.


One significant component of patient care is determining a patient’s disability level and impairment rating to determine what disability services they can receive. The first step to creating an accurate patient evaluation is ensuring that health care professionals understand the difference between “impairment” and “disability.” An impairment can be understood as any deviation or loss of any body function or body structure. Disability is characterized by limitations or reductions in the individual’s ability to participate in their activities of daily living (ADL) due to a disease or health condition. It is important to understand there is no definite relationship between disability and impairment. An individual may have significant impairment, such as an amputated arm, but would not be considered significantly disabled because they are still able to successfully engage in their daily tasks. Alternatively, an individual may have an impairment that appears minor but causes significant limitations for that person’s daily activities. For example, an individual with arthritis in their knee becomes unable to tolerate a full day of work, causing them to lose employment. Because impairment and disability will vary for each case, health care providers are encouraged to consider disability in terms of a spectrum of ability to function and rate a patient’s impairment depending on how the impairment impacts the patient’s ADL participation .

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