The Sequential Evaluation Process for Determining Disability

Sometimes, debilitating medical conditions can be so severe that you won’t be able to perform any work. If this is the case with you, you might be entitled to Social Security disability benefits. But in order to qualify, the Social Security Administration must make a determination of disability, based on facts such as your age, education level, recent employment, and ability to work.

Applying for Social Security benefits can sometimes feel like wandering through a maze: there are many forms to fill out, documents to gather, appearances to make, and, possibly, appeals to be made. The assistance of an experienced and dedicated Spartanburg disability lawyer will greatly increase your chances of succeeding in your application for Social Security.

First, let’s examine the process that the Social Security Administration uses to determine whether or not you are “disabled” for Social Security disability purposes: a five-step test known as the “sequential evaluation process.” It asks:

First: Are you currently unable to work, or are you only able to do work that is not “substantial gainful activity”?

According to Social Security regulations, you must either: (a) not be able to do any work, or (b) if you are working, not be able to do any work that constitutes “substantial gainful activity.” This means that to qualify as disabled, you must not be able to do “ordinary or simple tasks satisfactorily without more supervision or assistance than is usually given other people doing similar work,” and you’re only doing minimal duties. If you can answer “yes” to this question, you can move on to Step 2.

Second: Do you have a “severe” impairment?

Your impairment must be “severe” enough so as to prevent you from performing basic work activities, including understanding, remembering, and following simple directions; walking, sitting, standing, lifting, reaching, or handling; and using your judgment. The impairment must also have lasted or be expected to last for at least 12 continuous months or result in death. If you’re determined to have a severe impairment, then you can proceed to Step 3.

Third: Does this impairment meet or equal a Listed Impairment?

The Social Security Administration has a Listing of Impairments that enumerates specific medical and physical impairments, as well as the medical standard for disability under each of the impairments. If your condition “meets” or “equals” one of the listed impairments, then you will automatically be found to be “disabled.” If you do not meet or equal a Listing, you can still be deemed disabled if you satisfy the criteria under both Steps 4 and 5.

Fourth: Do you still have the ability to do “past relevant work”?

You must prove that you’re currently unable to do any of the work on the “substantial gainful activity” level that you did in the past 15 years. The Social Security Administration will look at your “residual functional capacity” (which is your remaining capacity to do work) to determine if you’re able to do any past relevant work. If you satisfy this requirement, then move to Step 5 to see if you qualify for disability benefits.

Fifth: Can you do other work that exists in significant numbers in the economy?

Here, the Social Security Administration will look at your age, education, residual functional capacity, and work experience to see if you’re able to perform other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy. If, taking these factors into account, the Social Security Administration determines that you are unable to perform these generally available jobs, then it will find you disabled.

Contact an Experienced Spartanburg Lawyer for Help

Filing for Social Security disability benefits can be a long and confusing process. If you’ve been denied benefits in initial determination or reconsideration appeal, you may be tempted to just give up. Don’t panic, however; with the help of an experienced Spartanburg disability lawyer, your chances of winning benefits at a hearing before the administrative law judge will increase exponentially. Get the help you need and contact dedicated Spartanburg disability lawyer today by filling out the form or calling the toll-free phone number on this page.

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