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Social Security Disability Evaluation

Social Security Disability Evaluation


This is basic information on the five steps involved in the Sequential Social Security Disability Process. This is the process reviewed when SSA determines whether a person meets disability requirements using the sequential evaluation process. Disability is found if the Claimant is unable to sustain full-time employment, taking into account age, education, work experience, and Residual Functional Capacity.

Step #1. Are You Working?

If you are, are you earning SGA?. Substantial gainful activity (SGA) is work activity that involves doing significant physical or mental activity usually done for pay or profit, whether or not a profit is realized. Earnings above those set in the regulations will automatically eliminate a Claimant from being eligible. However, even if a person is not making SGA, a Claimant that is working will generally have a more difficult case than someone who is not. If it is found you are not engaging in SGA, the process moves to step two.

Step #2. Is Your Medical Condition, or a Combination of Them, Severe?

At step two you must show you have an impairment or a combination of impairments that is severe. Severe, within the meaning of the regulations, means that it significantly limits an individual’s ability to perform basic work activity. Denials at this stage are rare but they do happen. If your impairments are found to be severe, the process moves to step three.

Step #3. Do You Meet a Listing?

At step three the focus is on whether your impairment or combination of impairments meet or medically equal a listing. This is an often overlooked area of Social Security Disability. The listings of impairment include not only the diagnosis required but the level of severity required to be found to meet or medically equal it. There re both adult and child listings, they are the A section and B section. If you are found to meet or equal a listing you should be found disabled, if not the process moves to step four.

Step #4. Can You Perform Your Past Relevant Work?

This is not limited to your opinion of whether you can do your PRW or not, but rather if the medical evidence supports that limitation. At this stage, your physical limitations will all be addressed as a Residual Functionary Capacity. The question at this stage is whether your RFC allows you to do your past relevant work. Past Relevant Work is work performed within the 15 years prior to the date that disability is established. If you are found to not be able to do your PRW, the burden of proof shifts to SSA to show there is other work in the national economy in significant numbers that you can do. if your past work is eliminated and you are at least 45 it it possible that the medical-vocational rules will apply to your case. If you are found to not be able to do your PRW, and you don’t have a medical vocation rule applicable to you, you move on to step five.

Step #5. Is There Other Work in the National Economy in Significant Numbers You Can Do?

At Step Five, the burden of proof is on Social Security to show there is other work in the national economy. This is the crucial part of the hearing and where you really need to know what DDS has given you as an RFC, and where your treating doctor’s RFC is crucial. Finding you cannot sustain employment will lead to disability.

If you are applying for Social Security Disability and want to know more about our service call and schedule a free consultation. We will be happy to review the Social Security Disability Evaluation Process with you.

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