How Social Security Evaluates a Claim for Adult Disability Benefits 

To many people, how Social Security decides whether or not somebody is eligible for disability benefits can be hard to understand to say the least.  So let's walk through the process and see if we can make sense of it.  Let's start with what "disability" means to Social Security.  Here is how Social Security defines "Disability": 

"An inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 

That's a lot of legal language packed into one sentence but we will try to unpack it so it makes more sense as we go forward. For now, just understand that when your doctor says your'e "disabled" that might not necessarily mean the same thing to Social Security.  

So how does Social Security decide whether somebody is entitled to disability benefits? To do that Social Security uses something called "The 5-Step Sequential Evaluation." This "sequential evaluation process" is a series of five "steps" or "questions " that must be answered in order 1 through 5, and the answers to these questions will determine whether or not an adult individual is "disabled" for purposes of receiving disability benefits.  Lets walk though those steps to see how it works: