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The Disability Evaluation Process
The Social Security Administration uses a 5-step sequential evaluation process to determine whether or not you qualify for disability benefits:
Step 1: Are You Working?
Step 1 determines if an person is "working", according to the Social Security Administration definition. If you are working, your earnings must be below the level of substantial gainful activity. Earning more than the SGA amount may disqualify you from receiving Social Security disability benefits. There are special regulations for self-employed claimants.
Step 2: Is Your Condition Severe?
Step 2 evaluates whether your medical condition is severe enough to significantly limit your ability to perform basic work activities. In addition, the impairment must last, or be expected to last, for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.
Step 3: Is Your Condition A Listed Impairment?
Step 3 asks whether or not your medical condition meets or equals a listed impairment. The Social Security Administration has criteria for more than 150 categories of medical conditions, called “listings.” These listed impairments are severe enough to presumptively preclude a person from working. If you “meet or equal" the criteria of a listing you will be granted benefits.
Step 4: Can You Do Work You Did Previously?
Step 4 explores your ability to perform the type of work you have done in the past, despite now having physical or mental impairments. If the Social Security Administration finds that you are still able to perform your past relevant work, benefits are denied. If you cannot perform your past work, then the process proceeds to the fifth and final step.
Step 5: Can You Do Any Other Type Of Work?
Step 5 determines what other work you are able to perform. Social Security considers a claimant’s age, education, work experience and physical/mental condition to make this determination. If Social Security finds that you cannot make a transition to other work, you will be granted benefits.
Detailed knowledge of the 5 step sequential evaluation process is critical to a successful Social Security disability claim. An experienced Social Security disability lawyer can help you.