Five-Step Sequential Evaluation Process

There are five steps the Social Security Administration (SSA) follows to determine whether you are disabled under its two SSA disability programs: SSI and Social Security disability. If the SSA determines that you do not meet the requirements of any step, then the process ends and you may not recover disability benefits. The five-step process is called the “sequential evaluation process.” A Spartanburg disability lawyer can help navigate you through this complex process.

The five steps are:

  • You are not performing “substantial gainful activity” (SGA); and
  • You are suffering from a “severe” medically determinable impairment; and
  • Your impairment “equals” one of the impairments listed in the Social Security’s “Listing of Impairments;” or
  • In light of your “residual functional capacity” (RFC), you cannot perform your “past relevant work” (PRW); and
  • You cannot adjust to other work that exists in significant numbers, considering your RFC, age, education, and work experience.

The terms in quotation marks are terms of art in disability law and have very particular meanings. Often, the definitions of these terms are not what you’d expect. If you have a disability claim, a Spartanburg disability lawyer can guide you through the SSA evaluation process.

In addition to meeting the five steps, your disability must last for at least 12 full months. Also, to qualify for benefits you must have worked and paid enough Social Security taxes to earn sufficient work quarters to qualify. SSI also has certain income and asset requirements.

Based on the sequential evaluation process, there are six ways that you may be found not to be disabled. You are not disabled if you:

  • Have a job at the SGA level.
  • Do not have a severe medically determinable impairment.
  • Have a medically determinable impairment, but it does not appreciably impair your physical or mental ability to do basic work.
  • Have not been disabled for 12 full months.
  • Can perform past relevant work.
  • Can perform other work.

The process for receiving disability benefits can be challenging. Contact experienced Spartanburg disability lawyer to get the best advice for your particular situation.