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Social Security Disability and The Five-Step Evaluation Process

Joanow Legal Group Dec. 20, 2018

Residents of Hermitage who are injured, ill or have a condition that hinders of prevents their ability to hold a job should consider filing for Social Security disability benefits. Even those who do not believe they meet the criteria to be approved are often surprised when they go through the process. Before moving forward with the application, however, it is important to understand the basics. A significant part is the five-step evaluation process. The Social Security Administration will use these steps to decide on a case’s viability. Knowing these is key for the applicant.

First, the SSA will ask if the claimant is working. For those who are working, their average earnings per month cannot surpass a certain amount. If it does, the person will not be classified as disabled. The amount – also called substantial gainful activity, or SGA, changes annually. For 2018, a person who is not blind can earn $1,180 monthly. If the person is blind, it is $1,970 per month. For those who are not working or the earnings are less than SGA, it moves onto step two, if the medical condition is severe.

The severity of the medical condition must limit the person’s ability to perform basic work activities like walking, standing, sitting and more for a minimum of 12 months. If it is considered severe, the case will then be based on the third step: whether it meets or medically equals a condition or illness on the listing of impairments. The listings are medical issues that the SSA views as having sufficient severity to keep a person from performing SGA. Age, education and work experience are not factored in. Once it meets or equals a listing, the SSA will consider the fourth step: if the person can do work he or she did previously.

If the medical condition or conditions stops the person from doing any work he or she did in the past, the case can continue to step five and the SSA will assess if the person can do any other type of work. In this category, the age, previous work, skills and education will factor in. If the person is unable to do any other kind of work, they will be declared disabled.

Although it might seem to be a complicated process, even those who are denied SSD benefits at one point or another during sequential evaluation can appeal and possibly be approved. One of the most vital factors in applying for and receiving Social Security disability is to have legal assistance. A law firm that is experienced in helping people who are injured or ill should be called immediately for advice and guidance.