The 5 Step Process of Deciding Disability

The Social Security Administration uses a five-step process to decide if a person is disabled, depending on what qualifies for disability. After the following five questions are answered the SSA will decide if you are eligible for Social Security disability benefits. If you are denied benefits, this is when you may need to speak with an attorney and see if there is anything that can be done. The denial letter is not the end of the road. There are still options open to you. The following steps and explanations come straight from the Social Security Disability Administration.

  1. Are You Working?
    If you are working and your earnings surpass the amount set for substantial gainful activity (SGA) then you will not be considered for disability benefits. The SGA amount changes each years as the economy ebbs and flows. In 2010, SGA for non-blind persons is $1,000.
  2. Is your medical condition “severe”?
    If your disability is not severe enough you will not receive disability benefits from Social Security. What they are looking for in this portion of the process is if your disability restricts you from working. How long can you sit? Can you stand? Walk? This is where your medical records will come into play. Your medical records must convey your disability to the Administration.
  3. Is your medical condition on the List of Impairments?
    State Social Security agencies have a List of Impairments that describes medical conditions that are considered so severe that a person is automatically considered disabled by definition of the law. If your condition is not on this list, the Administration will then see if you condition is equal to one on the list. View the List of Impairments.
  4. Can you do the work you did before?
    The Administration will simply decide if your medical condition prevents you from being able to do the work you did before. If it does not, you will be denied benefits.
  5. Can you do any other type of work?
    If you are now on this step, it has been decided that you cannot do work you have performed in the past. Now, the Administration will look at your medical condition, age, education, past work experience and any skills you may have. If the Administration decides that you cannot do any other type of work, you will be awarded disability benefits.//

Remember, just because you receive a denial letter does not mean it is the end of the road. In North Carolina, over 82% of those seeking Social Security disability benefits are denied. The denial is only the first step of the whole Social Security disability determination process.

If you have been denied and would like to speak with a lawyer for free, contact Hardison & Cochran today.