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Social Security’s Five Steps for Deciding Whether to Grant SSD Benefits

By Kenton Koszdin Law Office on June 24, 2013 | In Social Security Disability

The Social Security Administration (SSA) handles claims for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. According to the SSA, about one in every three U.S. workers will qualify for disability benefits before he or she reaches retirement age.

The SSA uses a five-step process to determine whether an individual applicant qualifies for SSD benefits. If the SSA rejects an application, the applicant may appeal the decision, with or without the assistance of an experienced southern California Social Security disability benefits attorney. The five steps the SSA uses to determine whether a person qualifies for benefits are:

  1. Is the applicant working? If the applicant is working and making more money than the SSA’s cutoff, the person generally will not be considered disabled. The maximum amount a working person can make changes each year to reflect changes in inflation and cost of living.
  2. Is the applicant’s medical condition “severe”? A “severe” medical condition significantly limits a person’s ability to do one or more basic work activities, like sitting, standing, walking, carrying objects, or remembering things. The condition must be expected to last at least one year.
  3. Is the applicant’s medical condition on the List of Impairments? If the condition appears on the List of Impairments, the SSA will generally consider the person disabled. If not, the SSA will examine medical records and other information to determine if the condition is expected to last at least one year and/or to result in the person’s death.
  4. Can the applicant do his or her previous job? If the person could do his or her last job, he or she may not be considered disabled.
  5. Can the applicant do any other kind of job? If the person could switch to a job different from the one he or she last held, the SSA may not consider the person disabled. If the person is unable to switch to a different job even with training, the SSA will likely consider the applicant disabled.
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