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5 Step Process That Social Security Uses To Tell If You Are Disabled

The Social Security Administration uses a 5 Step Sequential Evaluation to determine if you are disabled. Broken down, its quite easy to understand, however, claiming that you are disabled and actually being found disabled by the Social Security Administration are two very different things. Below is quick summary of each step:

STEP 1: Are You Gainfully Employed?

In the state of New York, you are "gainfully employed" if you earn over $980 per month. Some states differ over this amount, but not by much. If you earn less than this amount, you are eligible, assuming your impairments prevent you from working.

STEP 2: Is Your Medical Impairment Severe?

Any impairment, or injury, that interferes with your basic work-related activities, is considered "severe." If after your injury, you are unable to engage in the same work activities than your impairment can be considered severe.

STEP 3: Does Your Impairment Meet or Equal the Medical Listings?

The Social Security Administration has issued a disability handbook that lists all medically recognizable disabilities. Should you have an impairment that is classified as a medical listing, you can be automatically found disabled. These listings are very specific and most claimants do not have impairments that meet or equal the medical listings. If you do not meet one of these listings, the evaluation process moves on to STEP 4 and 5.

STEP 4: Can You Perform Your Previous Work?

Social Security is interested in the work you performed in the last 15 years. Therefore, your "Past Relevant Work" is any jobs you may have worked over the last 15 years. In order to be found disabled, your impairments must be severe enough that you are unable to perform your past relevant work. If Social Security decides that you are able to perform your past relevant work, they will issue a denial for benefits. In the alternative, if they find you unable to perform your past relevant work, move on to STEP 5.

STEP 5: Can You Perform Any Other Kind of Work?

The 5th and final step in the administration's evaluation process to determine if you are disabled is whether you are able to perform any other type of work in the local or national economy. Even though you might not be able to perform your past relevant work, Social Security wants to know if there is any other job in the economy that you can perform. The government considers this by taking into account your age, education and whether you have any transferable skills. If it is determined that you are unable to do any kind of job as a result of your impairments, you will be found disabled and awarded benefits.

To learn more about the disability process and how Social Security evaluates individual claims, Markhoff & Mittman will be holding two FREE SEMINARS on October 21st and October 28th in New York City.  For more information about these seminars, please visit