Unlocking the Mystery: Social Security’s 5-Step Sequential Evaluation for Disability Determination

Unlocking the Mystery: Social Security’s 5-Step Sequential Evaluation for Disability Determination

Social Security disability services provide monthly financial benefits to millions of Americans with severe disabilities. If you are interested in applying for your condition, it is best to first understand some key terms associated with disability benefits.

After a person sends their initial disability application, their case will be reviewed step-by-step using the Social Security’s Five-Step Sequential Evaluation. This process helps to standardize the review process and helps the government determine the severity of your case. If a person is found disabled (or not disabled) at a step, then the process stops and a case decision is determined. The simplified steps are as follows:

Step 1: Is the individual engaging in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)?

For those countable income exceeds $1,470* the individual is considered to be “engaging in SGA” and is ineligible for disability benefits.

Step 2: Is the individual’s physical and/or mental condition severe? 

A person whose condition is a) severe enough to prevent work, and b) is expected to last longer than 12 months or result in death, is considered disabled.

Step 3: Does the individual’s medical condition meet or equal the severity of a listing?

To determine this, reviewers compare an applicant’s diagnosis to that condition’s listing in the Social Security disability Blue Book (which you can find any time online).

Step 4: Can an individual do any of his/her past relevant work?

Those who show an inability to function well enough or safely enough to work qualify here as severely disabled.

Step 5: Can the individual make an adjustment to any other work? 

If a person’s condition, age, education, and work experience are found to disqualify them from any other work, they are found to be disabled.

Understanding this 5-step sequential evaluation is crucial for applicants navigating the complex landscape of Social Security disability benefits. It not only provides clarity on the evaluation process but also empowers individuals to comprehend the criteria that determine their eligibility for much-needed financial assistance.  If you need help navigating through the process contact Shook & Stone at (702) 570-0000 for an obligation-free case assessment.

*income amount is changing to $1,550 in 2024