How does the Social Security Administration Evaluate my Claim?

Social Security Word Cloud on White Background

Every year for the past nearly 60 years, millions of men and women have received extra support from the Social Security Administration.  This support has come during some of the most critical moments in each individual’s life.  The Tallahassee disability attorneys at Liebenhaut Law are more than prepared to help residents of North Florida and South Georgia qualify for benefits they deserve.

Social Security has strict regulations that apply when evaluating a disability claim whether for SSI or SSDI claim.  Each applicant’s claim is subject to a five-step sequential evaluation. Each step must be met before proceeding to the next step. It is imperative that you consult with Tallahsssee Social Security lawyers who are well versed in the five step sequential evaluation.   The five steps of this process are:

  • Is the applicant engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity?

The SSA will look at whether you are performing substantial gainful activity.  If the applicant is performing SGA work then he or she is ineligible to receive disability benefits.  Currently, SGA means you are earning over $1,090 per month.  See our article on SGA to determine what constitutes “earned income” for purposes of the SGA analysis.  If you’d prefer, feel free to call for a free case evaluation from one of our disability attorneys in Tallahassee.

—    Is the applicant’s limiting condition(s) “severe?”

The condition must severely limit or inhibit the applicant’s ability to carry out everyday tasks and duties at his or her unique job.  This condition must have lasted or be expected to last over 12 months or result in death.  Many people visit with our attorneys in our Tallahassee disability law office after being diagnosed with severe illnesses after being denied because SSA deems there is no evidence their impairment will last at least 12 months.  This includes social security disability claims for Cancer, HIV and AIDS, serious mental health conditions and more.

—  Does the applicant’s condition meet a listing as contained in Social Security’s list of disabling impairments?

The medical listings provide very precise definitions of many medical impairments. If the SSA finds that an applicant meets any impairment within the listings he or she is found to be disabled and eligible for benefits.  Having an impairment for which a listing exists by itself will not equate with meeting a listing.  Each listing has a variety of objective and subjective findings that must be met to show the impairment is extremely limiting enough to meet a listing.

—  Can the applicant perform their Past Relevant Work (PRW)?

The fourth step of the evaluation process looks at the applicant’s past work history. Your PRW is work performed in the fifteen years prior to becoming disabled that was performed long enough to learn how to do the job.  Social Security hires professionals in an effort to determine whether a claimant’s condition(s) are severe enough to prevent him or her from performing previous work he or she has experience in. If it does not, the claimant will be denied approval for benefits. If the claimant’s conditions are severe enough to affect his or her ability to perform previous work then the claim will move on to the fifth and final step. When you meet with one of our disability attorneys in our Tallahassee office, we will examine your past relevant work and how it may affect your claim.

— Can the applicant perform any other work?

Once we prove a claimant is unable to perform past relevant work, the burden shifts to Social Security at the fifth step to determine whether there sufficient jobs exist in the national economy that the claimant could actually perform on a full-time basis.  SSA focuses on a claimant’s condition(s), age, education, relevant past-work experience and transferable skills. Using a set of regulations called the Medical-Vocational Guidelines (or grid rules), the SSA will determine whether an applicant is capable of effectively performing any work or not. Based on this decision, an applicant may or may not be approved to receive benefits.

If you wonder how the 5-step sequential evaluation will be applied to you, give us a call now and one of our disability lawyers provide a free case evaluation.