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The Five-Step Sequential Evaluation Process – Step 4: Can The Applicant Perform Past Relevant Work (PRW)?

By Kenton Koszdin on July 31, 2018 | In Disability Insurance

The Five-Step Sequential Evaluation Process – Step 4: Can The Applicant Perform Past Relevant Work (PRW)?

Under the Social Security Act, a disability is defined as the “[i]nability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.”

Disability under the Social Security Act is based on an applicant’s inability to work. The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers a person disabled if, due to an established medical condition, he or she: 1) meets or equals one of the medical listings of impairments which contain criteria that are presumed to preclude work for most people; 2) cannot perform any of his/her work that was done before; or 3) cannot make an adjustment to other work.

The Code of Federal Regulations contain provisions that list a five-step sequential evaluation process for evaluating whether a condition is a “disability” under the Social Security Act. Each step may be expressed in the form of a question asked by the adjudicator about a disability benefit applicant and his or her medical condition.

Before step four occurs, the SSA must assess an applicant’s residual functional capacity (RFC), a measurement of what an applicant can do despite the limitations caused by his or her impairment. This assessment occurs before the SSA moves from step three to step four. It is also used if a claim evaluation reaches step five. Simply put, an applicant’s RFC is an assessment or accounting of an individual’s capacity for full-time work.

Step 4 – Can the applicant do any of his/her Past Relevant Work? 
At step 4 a function-by-function comparison of the individual’s RFC and past relevant work (PRW) is completed. If an individual retains the physical and mental capacity to perform any PRW, he/she Is found not disabled. If no PRW can be done, or the individual has no relevant work, the adjudicator goes to step five.

At this step the SSA does not consider a claimant’s age; education; body habitus; employability; or whether PRW exists in significant numbers in the national economy.

Step four has two parts:

  • Does the individual retain the capacity to perform PRW as he or she actually performed it?
  • Does the individual retain the capacity to perform PRW as generally performed in the national economy?

The SSA examines the work performed by an applicant over the prior 15 years to determine whether he or she can still perform a certain job or type of work. An applicant’s PRW must have been: 1) Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA); 2) performed in the fifteen-year relevant period; and 3) performed long enough to learn such work, i.e., reach average performance.

At this stage, the SSA is required to consider the exertional and non-exertional demands of the past work and compare them to the claimant’s residual functional capacity abilities (RFC). However, regardless of how restrictive the limitations or restrictions of an applicant’s residual functional capacity are, an individual will always be found not disabled at Step 4 if his or her RFC does not preclude the performance of any Past Relevant Work.

If Social Security affirmatively determines the ability to perform PRW, it will not find the applicant disabled. However, if Social Security determines that it is not possible to perform PRW because of physical or mental impairments then the inquiry proceeds to the next and final step.

Every application for social security benefits requires the consideration of a substantial list of issues over the life of a case. It’s one matter to apply for and receive benefits, but it’s another to understand what happens after this occurs over the long road ahead. The Kenton Koszdin Law Office provides the necessary experience to represent and assist you throughout the entire process in Social Security Disability and workers’ compensation. Do you have any questions or concerns about how Social Security benefits affect your receipt of Medicare and/or Medicaid? If so, contact the Kenton Koszdin Law Office to get the Social Security help you need in the San Fernando Valley! Call 800-438-7734 or visit us online. Se habla espańol!

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