How does the Social Security Administration determine that you are disabled? Just because you tell them you are does not mean they will actually believe that you are. You must prove your claim.
Your Social Security judge will use a five-step process called a “Sequential Evaluation” to determine if you are disabled. Do not be thrown by the fancy term – broken down, this process is quite easy to understand. Here is a quick summary of each of the five steps:
Step 1: Are you gainfully employed?
Gainfully employed is basically a way of asking if you have a job. In 2014, you are considered gainfully employed if you earn more than $1,070 per month ($1,800 per month if you are blind).If you earn more than this amount, you are considered gainfully employed and probably not eligible for benefits.
Step 2: Is your medical impairment severe?
Just what is “severe?” Any impairment or injury that is serious enough to interfere with your basic work-related activities is considered to be “severe” by the Social Security Administration. If your impairment is considered severe, you will move on to the next step.
Step 3: Does your impairment Meet or Equal the Medical Listings?
The Social Security Administration has issued a disability handbook that lists all of what they call medically recognizable disabilities. The good news: If your impairment meets the criteria listed for the specific medical listing, you may be found automatically disabled and may not have to appear for a hearing. The bad news: These listings are very specific and most people do not meet all of the criteria. However, the evaluation process still moves to step four.
Step 4: Can you perform your previous work?
If you’ve done it in the past fifteen years, known as your “Past Relevant Work,” Social Security wants to know about it. If Social Security decides that you can perform any of the past relevant work, they will issue a denial for benefits. If not, the process moves to step five.
Step 5: Can you perform any other kind of work?
The final step is to determine whether you are able to perform any other type of work in this economy. The Social Security Administration will take into account your age, education and your skill set in making this determination. Only if it is determined that you are unable to do any kind of job at all as a result of your impairment will you be found disabled and awarded benefits.
Remember, if you are disabled, PROVING that you are disabled can be difficult. Staying persistent and seeking guidance from a qualified disability attorney, such as those at the Disability University, can only increase your chances for success.
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