SSDRC authored by Tim Moore
Social Security Disability and SSI Questions and Answers
What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?
How do you Win Benefits under Social Security Disability or SSI?
If I am determined disabled, how far back will Social Security pay benefits?
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition?
What Can I Do to Improve My Chances of Winning Disability Benefits
Common Mistakes after Receiving a Denial of Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits
How to File for Disability - Tips for Filing
If You Get Approved For SSDI Will You Also Get Medicare?
How much does a Social Security disability attorney get paid?
Social Security Disability SSI Criteria and the Evaluation Process
How long does it take to be approved for SSI or Social Security disability?
What do you Need to Prove to Qualify for Disability Benefits?
Social Security Disability SSI and Fibromyalgia
Social Security Disability SSI and Degenerative Disc Disease
Can I Qualify For Disability and Receive Benefits based on Depression?
More questions about SSD and SSI
What Disabilities Qualify for SSI and Social Security Disability Benefits?
Social Security Disability Status
Social Security Disability Tips ó how a claim gets worked on
Social Security Disability, SSI Disability - Terms, Definitions, Concepts
The Steps of The Social Security Disability Determination Process
How to prove you are disabled
and win disability benefits
Social Security uses the same medical determination process for both SSI and SSD. The evaluation process is known as the five-step sequential evaluation process.
The five steps used in the sequential evaluation process are:
Step 1 - Social Security must determine if an individual is working and if they are still working are the working at the SGA limit or over. SGA or substantial gainful activity is a monetary amount of earnings the Social Security sets each year as a self-supporting wage amount.
If an individual is working at the SGA limit or above, their disability claim will be denied prior to being sent for a disability medical decision. It does not matter what their disabling condition or conditions are -- as long as they are earning over the SGA limit with no help from their employer their disability claim will be denied (special help means that special considerations are given to help the individual keep the job).
Step 2 - If an individual is not working at the SGA work level, then their allegation of disability must be evaluated. They must have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that is documented by medically acceptable clinical and/or diagnostic techniques. Signs, symptoms, and lab findings (if applicable) must always document a physical or mental impairment; consequently an individual must make it past this hurdle although there are a few who do not. If they do not, their disability claim will be denied.
Step 3 - Social Security must determine if an individualís medically determinable mental impairment or physical impairment meets or equals the listing criteria of a Social Security medical impairment listing (listings are contained in the blue book, which is often called the social security disability list of impairments).
If an individual does meet or equal the severity requirements of an impairment listing, the disability claim will be approved for disability at this level. If not, they must go to levels four and five that deal with their ability to perform work activity when you consider their residual functional capacity (what they are able to do in spite of the limitations of their disabling condition or conditions).
Step 4- Can an individual perform any of their past relevant work? It is relevant if it is any job they performed in the past fifteen years for three months or more, prior to filing for disability, in which the person had time to learn the job, and had SGA level earnings while doing the job.
If their residual functional capacity precludes any of their past work activity, they still have to be evaluated to determine if they could do any other kind of work when their limitations are taken into consideration.
Step 5- Can an individual perform any other kind of work when their residual functional capacity, education, age, and work history are considered? If the individualís residual functional capacity is restrictive and their job skills do not transfer to any other kind of work, they may qualify for an approval for disability benefits through a medical vocational allowance. This type of allowance is based upon an individualís residual functional capacity, transferability of their skills, their age, and their education.
The sequential evaluation process ensures that all disability claimants have an equal chance of being medically approved for disability benefits because the evaluation is done with no regard to which disability program an individual is filing for.
Return to: SSDRC, or the Social Security Disability Questions page