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5 Step Social Security Disability Eligibility Evaluation Process

Cook County Social Security Disability Lawyer

Have you applied for Social Security disability benefits? If yes, it is important to understand how your disability claim will be evaluated. The Social Security Administration determines whether a person is disabled by using a 5-step sequential Social Security disability evaluation process.

The 5 steps are:

(1) Are you engaging in substantial gainful activity?

Substantial gainful activity (SGA) is simply and literally work that is both substantial and gainful. Regardless of the severity of the claimant’s condition, if there is substantial gainful activity he or she is not disabled and qualifying for social security disability my not be possible. What constitutes SGA continues to vary annually. For the year 2022, SGA is generally earnings averaging over $1,350 a month, or $2,260 a month if you are legally blind.

(2) Is your condition(s) severe?

At this step of Social Security disability evaluation, Social Security will consider your impairment or combination of impairments severe if it interferes with basic work-related activity. It should be noted that while you may not currently have a severe impairment, if you did for a period in the past you can still meet the requirements for step 2 and gain Social Security disability eligibility. The condition must last for at least 12 months. To view a list of qualifying physical and mental conditions, click here.

(3) Does your condition meet or medically equal a listed impairment?

If a person’s condition meets or is medically equivalent to a qualifying impairment and it is expected to last for at least 12 months, he or she will be found disabled. If the condition does not meet or medically equal a qualifying impairment, the analysis must proceed to step 4 in qualifying for Social Security disability. The Listing of Impairments can be found on the SSA website. Click here to learn more about how a child can functionally equal a listing.

(4) Can you perform your past work?

At step 4 of the process, the government will evaluate the person’s capacity to do mental and physical work activities based on his or her medical limitations (residual functional capacity). If those limitations prevent the person from doing his or her past work, the analysis will move to step 5 of the Social Security disability eligibility process. If the person is able to do past work, he or she is not disabled. In the case of children, however, because child SSI benefits deal with individuals that have most likely never worked the disability evaluation process works differently.

(5) Can you perform other work considering your residual functional capacity?

The burden of proof shifts to Social Security to prove that there is other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy that the person is able to do given his or her limitations. Again, the Social Security Disability Eligibility process works differently for children since naturally they are too young to work. Now that you understand the process of qualifying for Social Security disability, contact us at 312-999-0999 for a free consultation and let us help you get the benefits you deserve.

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