How Many Steps Are There In The Disability Benefits Process?

Submitted by Elizabeth on

There are 5 steps in the Social Security disability benefits determination process for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) applications.

It is important to highlight that the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not automatically award disability benefits to an applicant until he or she has met several conditions.

In the disability benefits determination process, the SSA wants the applicant to provide proof that his or her medical condition is so severe that it will stop him or her working for at least 12 months. As such, if the applicant is, or seems to be, able to work and earn the threshold determined by the SSA, then it is likely that their Social Security disability benefits application will be denied.

Step 1: Are You Currently Working?

If you are working and make more than the current substantial gainful activity (SGA), $1,350/month in 2022, then you will not qualify and, thereby, would be denied disability benefits if and when you were to file your application. However, if you are not working or make under the current SGA ($1,350/month) in 2022, your application may continue to be processed based on the severity of your medical condition until a decision has been made.

Step 2: Is Your Medical Condition Severe?

So, does your medical condition reach the SSA’s definition of severe? Well, the answer to this question essentially revolves around your answer to the following question: does your medical condition interfere with your basic work-related activities and/or responsibilities (e.g., sitting, standing, lifting, pushing, speaking, etc.)? If you answered no to this question, your claim may be denied. However, if you answered yes, then your application can go through to step 3.

Step 3: Is Your Condition in the Blue Book?

Your medical condition should be listed in the Blue Book. If your condition is not listed in the Blue Book, you should ask yourself whether it is equally as severe as a Blue Book condition listing. If you answered yes to these questions—i.e., your condition is listed in the Blue Book and/or your condition is equally as severe as a Blue Book listing—then there is a higher likelihood that you may be approved.

However, if your condition is not listed in the Blue Book, and/or your condition does not meet the severity standards of other condition listings in the Blue Book, then your application can go on to the next step.

Step 4: Can You Do Past Work?

If you don’t meet a Blue Book listing, the SSA will then determine whether you are able to use any of your past work experience to get a job with your current medical condition. If you still are able to do past jobs with your condition, your application will almost certainly be denied. However, if you are unable to to any of your past jobs, your application will proceed to step 5.

Step 5: Are You Able To Do Any Other Type Of Work?

Step 5 of the disability application process revolves around the question of whether or not you are able to do any other type of work with your medical condition.

If your medical condition makes it so you are unable to work in some, or all, of your past jobs, the examiner will determine whether there is any other type of work you are able to do. In doing so, the examiner will consider your age, education, job experience, training, skills, etc. If the examiner is unable to find a job that you can do with your disability, then your application will likely be approved.

Get Help From a Disability Lawyer

In the end, the SSA is most concerned about your ability to earn an income while you are suffering from a medical condition.

Oftentimes, applicants are denied their right to Social Security disability benefits as a result of being unable to prove the severity of their medical condition. It is important to note that, if you work with an attorney, you can expect that your chances of getting your SSDI or SSI application getting approved will increase.

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