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Five-Step Sequential Evaluation

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.

What is the Five-Step Sequential Evaluation?

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:

1. Is the individual engaging in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)? Those who make over $1170 in countable income are considered “engaging in SGA” and do not qualify for disability benefits.

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.

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).

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.

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.

How an Attorney Can Help

Terms like these can be confusing to work through on your own. For the most qualified assistance when preparing for your application, consider a free consultation with a disability attorney in your area. With their legal expertise, you can prepare your strongest disability case to work towards qualifying in each step to get the benefits you need for your condition.