What's the Social Security Disability Sequential Evaluation Process?

When you must file a claim for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), it's helpful to understand how the claims process works and the rules that apply to these cases. Knowing how the Social Security Administration (SSA) evaluates a person’s medical condition or illness to determine disability helps predict what might happen with your claim.

We explain the Social Security Sequential Evaluation Process that's used to evaluate whether or not you're entitled to benefits.

Questions Asked in the Social Security Disability Sequential Evaluation

In order to be eligible for SSDI benefits, your medical condition must meet the requirements of a disability. It's defined as the inability to engage in any gainful activity due to a medically-determinable physical or mental impairment which is expected to last for at least 12 months or results in death.

The Social Security Sequential Evaluation is a series of five steps in the process used to determine whether you're disabled. At each stage, the SSA worker assigned to your claim asks questions pertaining to eligibility.

Here are the questions in the process:

  • Step 1. Are you working above the SGA level? SGA stands for Substantial Gainful Activity, which is working at a job. For example, in 2017, the SGA level income amount is $1,170 per month.
  • Step 2. Is your physical or mental condition severe? Your medical condition or illness must be severe enough to meet the definition of a disability, as discussed above. To be severe, the condition must interfere with basic work-related activities.
  • Step 3. Does your medical condition meet or equal the severity of the Listing of Impairment? The SSA lists many medical conditions and illnesses in its Listings of Impairments, which is also known as the Blue Book. If you can prove your condition is included in the Listing or is substantially as severe, you can establish a disability.
  • Step 4. Can you perform any of your past relevant work? If the answer is no due to your condition, it furthers your claim.
  • Step 5. Can you make an adjustment to any other work? The SSA has the burden of proving that work, other than what you performed in the past, exists in sufficient number; and that you can adjust to another form of employment given your age, educational level, work experience, and impairment.

Do you have questions about filing your application for SSDI benefits? Has your claim been denied? Our experienced Social Security disability lawyers are here to help you prove that you are disabled under Social Security Administration laws. We have more than two decades of experience guiding our clients through the process of obtaining the SSDI benefits they deserved. To discuss your situation and rights to benefits, call our office or fill out our online form to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.


Joshua Worley
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Roswell, NM Social Security and Veterans Disability Lawyer