How Is Disability Determined For Disability Benefits?

Once you file a claim for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the Social Security Administration (SSA) follows a five-step process to determine whether you are disabled. These steps are as follows:

Step 1: Are you working?

Because you are telling the SSA that you need benefits because you are unable to work due to a physical or mental impairment, you cannot be working once you file for benefits. If you are still working, the Social Security Administration will find you not disabled.

Step 2: Do you suffer from a severe mental or physical impairment?

To meet this step, you must suffer from a physical or mental impairment that interferes with basic work-related activities. Physical work-related activities include:

  • Lifting
  • Carrying
  • Standing
  • Walking
  • Sitting
  • Pushing
  • Pulling
  • Various nonexertional activities

Mental work-related activities include your ability to:

  • Understand, carry out and remember simple instructions
  • Make simple, work-related judgments and decisions
  • Respond appropriately to supervision, co-workers and work situations
  • Deal with changes in a routine work setting

If you suffer from either a physical or mental impairment that affects your ability to work in some or all of the above areas for at least 12 months, the SSA moves to the next step.

Step 3: Does your condition meet or equal a severity listing?

The SSA has various listings of medical criteria that are considered so severe that you may be found disabled if your medical records reveal that your physical or mental impairment matches one of these listings. If you meet one of these listings, you are considered disabled. If not, the SSA moves onto the next step.

Step 4: Do your impairments keep you from performing any of your past relevant work?

At this step, the SSA will look at your physical or mental impairments and determine whether you can perform any of the work you did in the 15 years prior to applying for benefits. If you cannot perform any of your past jobs due to your impairments, the SSA will move to the fifth and final step. That said, if you are 55 or older, you may be found to be disabled at this step if certain other criteria are met.

Step 5: Are there other jobs you can perform despite your impairments?

At this final step, the SSA will look at your age, education, work experiences and limiting effects of your physical or mental impairment to determine whether you could adjust to other work. If you cannot adjust to other work due to your impairment, then you are disabled and eligible to receive benefits.

McKellar & Easter, Attorneys At Law, Can Help You

The lawyers at our firm know these requirements well and are capable of reviewing your case to determine whether you are eligible for benefits. Schedule a free initial telephone consultation to get started. Call 865-566-0125 or fill out this contact form.