Social Security Disability and The Evaluation Process
In determining whether or not you may be entitled to Social Security Disability, the SSA uses a 5-step sequential evaluation process.
1. The first step is whether you are working?
Step 1 determines if an person is “working”, according to the Social Security Administration definition. Earning more than this amount a month as an employee is enough for disqualification from receiving Social Security Disability.
2. The second step is to determine if your condition is severe enough?
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 or result in death.
3. Does SSA list your condition as an impairment?
Step 3 asks if the impairment meets or equals a medical “listing.” The Social Security Administration uses more than 150 categories of medical conditions, called “listings.” You can browse the Social Security listed impairments for adults. These conditions are severe enough to presumptively preclude a person from working. If you “meet or equal a listing” you will be granted benefits. If you do not meet a listing, the SSA proceeds to Step 4.
4. Are you able to do the work you previously did?
Step 4 explores your ability to perform work you have done in the last 15 years. If the Social Security Administration finds that you can still perform this past relevant work, even if you have disabilities, benefits are denied.
It does not matter in step 4 if you were fired or laid off, if your former employer would not hire you, or if the place where you worked is no longer in business, or if all those jobs are now done in Mexico. The SSA will match your physical and mental residual functional capacity with the requirements of your former job.
If you cannot perform your past relevant work, then the process proceeds to the fifth and final step.
5. Are you able to do any other type of work?
Step 5 determines what other work, if any, the person can perform. In making their determination, the SSA will take into consideration your age, education, work experience and physical/mental condition. If the SSA finds that you cannot make the transition to other work, you will be approved for your SSD benefits.