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What Is the “Five-Step Analysis” in Social Security Disability Cases?

 Posted on January 28, 2021 in Social Security Disability

IL disabilityIf you suffer from injuries or illnesses that make it difficult or impossible for you to continue working and earning an income, you may be able to receive Social Security disability benefits. However, the process of applying for disability benefits can be complicated, and applications are often denied. When appealing a disability denial, it is important to understand the factors that will be reviewed to determine whether you are disabled and eligible to receive benefits.

Analysis of Whether a Person Is Disabled

When reviewing a plaintiff’s appeal of the denial of Social Security disability benefits, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is required to perform a five-step analysis in which the following questions are considered, in order:

  • Is the plaintiff currently unemployed?
  • Do the plaintiff’s medical issues constitute a severe impairment?
  • Is the plaintiff’s impairment one of the specific impairments listed in Social Security regulations, or is it equal to one of these impairments?
  • Is the plaintiff unable to perform work in their former job?
  • Is the plaintiff unable to perform work in another occupation?

An answer of “yes” to either step three or step five will result in a finding that the plaintiff is disabled. If the plaintiff can meet the requirements of step four and show that they are unable to perform work they have done in the past, the Commissioner of Social Security has the burden of proof to show that the plaintiff should be able to find work based on the available jobs in the national economy that meet their physical limitations.

Magistrate Rules on ALJ’s Consideration of Severe Impairments

A recent Illinois case, Cheryl Y. R. v. Commissioner of Social Security, illustrates the role the five-step analysis plays in Social Security disability cases. In this case, the plaintiff appealed an ALJ’s decision based on claims that the ALJ did not properly consider her severe impairments during step two. While the ALJ found that the plaintiff suffered from impairments including degenerative disc disease and plantar fasciitis, the plaintiff stated that the ALJ should have also identified depression as a severe impairment.

Upon review of the case, the magistrate stated that the ALJ did not make an error in step two. If at least one severe impairment is found at this step, the analysis continues, and during step four, the ALJ should consider the effects of all of the plaintiff’s severe or non-severe impairments. The magistrate stated that the ALJ properly considered all relevant issues during step four, and because of this, the decision to deny disability benefits was affirmed.

Contact Chicago Social Security Disability Appeals Attorney

When appealing the denial of Social Security disability benefits, it is important to present the correct information and make the right arguments. At Pearson Disability Law, LLC, we have represented thousands of people in cases involving Social Security disability, and we will help you receive the benefits you deserve. Contact our Illinois Social Security disability lawyer at 312-999-0999 to arrange a free consultation today.




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