How Social Security Determines if You’re Disabled

How Social Security Uses a Five-Step Process to Determine If You’re Disabled.

Are you working?

If you’re currently employed, and your earnings average more than a specific amount every month, the SSA typically will not classify you as being disabled. The certain amount varies yearly. If you’re not working, or your monthly earnings average meets or is lower than a certain amount, the SSA then proceeds to evaluate your medical condition.


Is your medical condition “severe”?

For you to meet the criteria necessary to be considered disabled, your medical condition has to be undoubtedly creating the inability for you to complete typical work tasks such as lifting, standing, walking, sitting and memory for a minimum of 12 months. You will not meet the Social Security’s definition of disabled if the medical condition isn’t severe enough. If your medical condition is truly severe, the SSA goes on to step 3.


Does your impairment(s) meet or medically equal a listing?

The SSA has a list of impairments or listings which describe medical conditions that qualify as sufficiently severe to stop a person from doing basics activities without considering age, education, or work experience. If your medical condition(s) cannot be found on the list, the SSA evaluates your condition is as severe as another condition on the list. If your condition severity meets or equals the severity of an already listed condition, the SSA will then determine that you have a qualifying disability. If your condition still does qualify as a severe impairment, the SSA will continue to step.


Can you complete previous work?

The SSA determines if your medical condition(s) stops you from completing previous work at this step. If it does not, the SSA decides you do not have a qualifying disability. If it does, the SSA will go on to step 5.


Can you complete other work?

If you cannot complete previous work, the SSA determines if there is another occupation you can work in despite your condition(s). They take into account your age, education, previous work experience, and any particular skills that could prove useful in another job. If you can’t complete other work, the SSA will decide that you are disabled. If you can, then the SSA will determine that you do not have a qualifying disability.