How Will My Social Security Disability Claim Be Decided?
The 5 step evaluation process for your Social Security Disability claim
The Social Security Administration has established a 5 step evaluation process for determining whether you are disabled and can receive Social Security Disability benefits. This is the process that the judge will use to decide your case. We’ve provided some information below on each of the steps.
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Step 1. Are you engaging in substantial gainful activity?
It must be determined whether you are engaging in substantial gainful activity. This is work that involves doing significant and productive physical or mental duties and is done for pay or profit. If you are doing substantial gainful activity, you are not disabled regardless of your medical condition, age, education or work experience. This does not mean that all work disqualifies you from getting disability benefits. You can still qualify for disability benefits if you are working and earning less than $1,000 per month.
Step 2. Do you have an impairment that can be medically determined?
It must be determined whether you have a medically determinable impairment that is severe or a combination of impairments that is severe. An impairment or combination of impairments is severe within the meaning of the regulations if it significantly limits your ability to perform basic work activities. The test is not whether you can perform some work but can you work five days per week eight hours per day with your medical condition.
Step 3. Does your medical condition meet impairment criteria?
It must be determined whether your medical condition meets the criteria of a listed impairment. Social Security maintains a list of impairments that will automatically qualify you for disability benefits. If your medical condition meets or medically equals one of these listed impairments, and the duration requirement is satisfied, you will be found disabled at this step.
Step 4. Can you perform requirements of your past work?
It must be determined whether you have the residual functional capacity to perform the requirements of your past relevant work. Social Security defines residual functional capacity as the most you can do despite your limitations. Social Security only considers the work performed by you in the last 15 years to be relevant. If you can perform any of your past relevant work then you are not disabled.
Step 5. Are you able to do other work?
It must be determined whether you are able to do other generally available work. Factors such as your age, education, previous work experience and maximum residual functional capacity will be considered. The Medical-Vocational Guidelines will then direct a finding of disabled or not disabled. If you cannot perform any work whatsoever, you will always be found disabled.
The Social Security Administration has the burden of showing that other work exists in significant numbers that you could perform. This is usually accomplished by the use of a vocational expert who will testify in your case. The vocational expert is paid for by the Social Security Administration, and his or her testimony could be favorable or unfavorable to you. Claims for disability benefits are frequently won or lost at this step. An experienced attorney knows how to cross-examine a vocational expert to make his or her testimony support your case.
Here’s more information on who qualifies for SSD.
Wondering if you qualify for an SSD claim?
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