The Five-Step Sequential Evaluation Process

 

The sequential evaluation process is a series of five “steps” that the Social Security Administration (SSA) follows in a set order in deciding a disability claim. These are the five steps SSA follows:

(1) At the first step, Social Security considers your work activity, if any. If you are doing substantial gainful activity, Social Security will find that you are not disabled. If you are working and your earnings average more than $1,170 a month, you generally cannot be considered disabled. There are exceptions to this rule which deal with short, unsuccessful work attempts.

If you are not working, Social security proceeds to Step 2.

(2) At the second step, SSA considers the medical severity of your impairment(s). Your condition must interfere with basic work-related activities for your claim to be considered. If it does not, SSA will find that you are not disabled.

If your condition does interfere with basic work-related activities, SSA proceeds to Step 3.

(3) At the third step, SSA also considers the medical severity of your impairment(s). For each of the major body systems, SSA maintains a list of severe conditions that are considered automatically disabling. If your condition is not on the list, SSA has to decide if your condition is of equal severity to a condition that is on the list. If you have an impairment(s) that meets or equals the requirements of one of the listed impairment, and meets the duration requirement, SSA will find that you are disabled.

If your impairment does not meet or equal a listing, then SSA proceeds to Step 4.

(4) If your condition is severe but does not meet or equal a listing, then SSA must determine if it interferes with your ability to do the work you did previously (your “past relevant work”). SSA will consider your remaining abilities to work despite your disabling conditions (your residual functional capacity). If you can still do your past relevant work, SSA will find that you are not disabled.

If you cannot do your past relevant work, Social Security proceeds to Step 5.

(5) At the fifth and last step, SSA will decide if you are able to adjust to other work. It will consider your conditions and your age, education, past work experience and any transferable skills you may have. If you cannot adjust to other work, your claim will be approved. If you can adjust to other work, your claim will be denied.