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In Order to Quality for Disability Benefits, You Must Pass the Five-Step Test

After you apply for Social Security Disability benefits, it can take the Social Security Administration (SSA) between three and five months to make an initial decision about your application. During that time, the SSA looks at the following to determine if you are eligible to receive disability benefits:

  1. Do you make too much money? The SSA will typically rule that you are not disabled if you are engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA) and make more than a specific monthly salary—$1040 in 2013. If you are not working or make less than the monthly threshold, the SSA proceeds to the next step of the review process.
  2. Is your impairment severe? The SSA then checks to see if your impairment is serious enough to prevent you from performing work-related functions. If it finds that your condition is not severe, the process stops and benefits are denied. If the SSA determines that your impairments are significant, it moves on to the next step in the process.
  3. Is your condition in the official impairment list? The SSA Blue Book, also known as Disability Evaluation Under Social Security, lists common impairments and the corresponding medical severity used by the SSA to determine if an individual is disabled. If your impairment is listed in the book or is functionally equivalent to one listed in the book, the SSA will find you disabled. Otherwise, it will advance to the next step in the process.
  4. Does your condition interfere with the type of work you did previously? In some cases, an individual’s condition is severe, but not the same as or functionally equivalent to an impairment listed in the Blue Book. For these situations the SSA evaluates your disability to determine if it interferes with your ability to do the type of work you did previously. If it does not interfere, the SSA will deny your claim. If it does, the SSA will continue to the final step in the process.
  5. Can you do a different job?  If the SSA finds that your condition interferes with the type of work you did previously, it will determine if there is another type of work you can do. It will review your age, work history, skills and education. If it finds that you cannot do another type of work with your condition, it will approve your claim. Otherwise, your claim will be denied.

The SSA reviews every disability application using the five-step process listed above in an attempt to treat everyone equally. However, the process is quite subjective and many claims are denied after the initial application.

If your disability benefits have been denied, contact a knowledgeable Social Security Disability attorney at Schmidt Kramer to discuss your situation. The toll-free number is (717) 888-8888 and the case evaluation is free.