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The Five-Step Sequential Evaluation Process – Step 1: Are You Working?

By Kenton Koszdin on July 26, 2018 | In Disability Insurance

The Five-Step Sequential Evaluation Process – Step 1: Are You Working?

The Social Security Act’s regulations provide for a five-step sequential evaluation process for determining whether applicants have a disability that qualifies them for benefits under the Act. Each step may be expressed in the form of a question asked by the examiner or judge about an individual applying for disability.

Step 1 –  Is the applicant working above the Substantial Gainful Activity level?

For an applicant to be deemed eligible for disability benefits, he or she must be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA). A person who is earning more than a certain monthly amount (the net of impairment-related work expenses) is typically considered to be engaging in SGA.

Thus, at the first step of the evaluation process, the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers an applicant’s work activity or substantial gainful activity. The amount of SGA changes annually. For 2018 it is $1,180 for non-blind individuals and $1,970 for those who are statutorily blind. (For 2017 it was $1,170 for non-blind individuals and $1,950 for the statutorily blind.) The amount of monthly earnings considered to be substantial gainful activity depends on the nature of a person’s disability.

If an applicant is engaged in monthly substantial gainful activity that exceeds the threshold amount, the SSA will determine that the applicant is working and deny the application for disability benefits. It is important to remember that “substantial gainful activity“ is a concept and legal term of art. Therefore, it may be shown that despite the math, an applicant is nevertheless not gainfully employed at a level that exceeds the SGA threshold amount.

If an individual is working and his or her earnings average more than the SGA limit a month (2018: $1,180 for non-blind individuals and $1,970 for the statutorily blind), then he or she is found not disabled. If an individual is not working or his or her earnings are less than the threshold amount of SGA, the adjudicator proceeds to step two.

The Kenton Koszdin Law Office thrives on helping its clients recover financially, physically, and emotionally from their disability. Whether you are injured on the job or have suffered some disability and are no longer able to work as you once did, you have rights and my office will help you assert, enforce, and protect them. Are you ready to fight for your benefits with a lawyer that is dedicated to helping you get results? If so, it is time to contact the Kenton Koszdin Law Office today. We offer free consultations, so you have absolutely nothing to lose! We look forward to hearing from you. Call 800-438-7734 or visit us online. Se habla espańol!

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