To determine whether an adult person is eligible for Social Security disability benefits, Social Security is required to follow a 5-Step sequential evaluation. Each step is essentially a question and each question has to be answered in order. The steps can be summarized as follows:
- Step 1 - Are you working full-time? If "yes," then you are not disabled. If "no", then go to to step 2.
- Step 2 - Do you have a medically determinable impairment (MDI) that is both severe and meets the 12-month duration requirement? Has it been documented by a doctor with medical records? If "no", then you are not be eligible for disability benefits. If the answer is "yes", then go to step 3.
- Step 3 - Does your medical condition "meet or equal a listing?" If the answer is "yes", then Social Security will find you to be disabled "as a matter of law." If "no," then go to step 4.
- Step 4 - Does your medical condition prevent you from doing full-time work you have done in the past 15 years? If you can still do the easiest full-time job you have done in the last 15 years, then you are not disabled. If your medical condition now prevents you from doing work you have done in the past 15 years, then go to step 5.
- Step 5 - Given your age, education, work history, and medical conditions, are there other full-time jobs that you could still do? If there are, then you are not disabled. If "no", then you meet Social Security's definition of "disability."
Hopefully, this "road-map" gives you a better understanding of how Social Security evaluates claims for disability benefits. Each step in the process has its own unique challenges and getting all the way through this obstacle course successfully is both time consuming and often difficult, especially when trying to deal with physical or mental pain and the stress of financial hardship from not being able to work. Regardless of where you are in the process, our firm is here for you. If you have questions or if you would like to have an experienced lawyer guide you through this maze, please contact us today. We are here to help.