What Are the Five Steps SSA Takes to Determine Disability?

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When an applicant appeals for a disability claim, the Social Security Administration (SSA) must go through five quintessential steps. It’s the sequential evaluation method to assess whether the applicant qualifies for the Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits or not. The SSA has a test that looks at the five stages of determining whether or not a claimant qualifies under disability laws.

When the Social Security Administration fails at determining a step, it incidentally moves to the following step. These five steps are based on the disability definition mentioned in the Social Security Act. According to the act, disability refers to the incapability of engaging in substantial gainful activity. The reasons are the medically determinable mental or physical impairments.

The claimant must go through a series of medical tests to establish whether he or she is disabled. The exam might show that the applicant has any one of these impairments, which could lead to a fatal condition or death or a condition that persists for an extended period of time. The Social Security Administration determines at the fifth step whether the applicant is deemed disabled. If yes, the claimant will receive SSDI payments.

The Five Steps that the SSA takes to determine a claimant’s disability

The SSA uses the following five simple processes to determine whether or not an applicant is disabled.

Step 1: The SSA asks whether the applicant works at the SGA Level.

First, the SSA will inquire as to whether or not you work for the SGA or at a substantial gainful employment level. The threshold for who is considered disabled changes from year to year. It’s understandable that someone who works and earns more than the SGA will not be considered disabled. When an individual makes less money than the SGA, the adjudicator will continue and focus on step two.

Step 2: The SSA determines whether the claimant has a severe mental or physical condition.

The SSA will investigate the importance of the claimant’s mental or physical health in this phase. They must have a severely debilitating mental or physical ailment that is both severe and medically determinable. The condition should also fulfill the duration requirement of being regarded for at least 12 months or being totally fatal.

Filling an RFC form for disability can also help as your working ability is analyzed through a systematic and standard process. The report holds a lot of importance and can help you get the benefits without facing denials.

Step 3: The SSA reviews the medical condition and determines whether it meets the medical listing’s severity.

In the third step, the Social Security Administration will inquire about the applicant’s medical conditions to see whether they match those listed in the SSA’s blue book. When a person’s condition satisfies or equals the description, they are declared disabled.

If their incapacity does not meet the criteria set forth in the blue book, however, the adjudicating officer will go on to evaluate step four. Before that, the claimant’s residual functional capacity (RFC) will be assessed by the SSA. It is a measure of how capable an applicant is of working full-time.

Step 4: The SSA asks whether the expected beneficiary engages in their past work.

The next step for the SSA will be to assess whether the person can return to their previous work. That necessitates a side-by-side comparison of the individual’s RFC and past relevant job. The SSA adjudicator considers individuals disabled if they are unable to engage in their past employment, and moves on to the following stage.

Step 5: The SSA determines whether the applicant is capable of adjusting to other work.

When determining whether someone is disabled, the adjudicator takes into account their age, RFC, and level of education. A claimant’s disability status is determined after he or she has been found to be unsuitable for any sort of work.  If they are discovered to be unable to adapt to any other sort of employment, they are classified as disabled.

Disability DeterminationThe SSA will review reports from hospitals, clinics, and doctors that have treated the claimant, along with details about the medication that the individual is consuming. When making a disability determination, the law requires people at Social Security to consider these factors in addition to the type of disability.

The claimant’s lawyer will have to explain how the combined impact of the impairments will prevent the individual from working. The individual’s entire case, including his or her medical records and job history, is weighed against Social Security’s intricate rules and policies.

Disability Determination Services (DDS) is the state agency that makes the disability determination for SSD and SSI claims. They are responsible for reviewing the medical evidence and making the disability determination. The DDS will send a notice to the claimant with their decision.

Seek legal help from an attorney today!

As soon as the SSA gets the details mentioned in the five questions, the decision is made accurately. Amidst the efforts you put in to form a compact file, a disability lawyer will always help you and meticulously work on the SSD claim to receive deserving compensations. So, you can always connect with an experienced attorney to discuss all the concerns.

The SSA is able to make an accurate determination as soon as they receive the relevant information provided in the five questions. A disability lawyer will always assist you and carefully work on your SSD claim to ensure you receive appropriate compensation. So, whether you have any questions or want advice on how to proceed, you may need to contact an experienced attorney.


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