Will I get disability with the condition I have? The Social Security Act defines disability for anyone over 18 years of age as the inability 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. There are different rules for blindness and children.
Social Security has established a five step process for determining who meets these criteria. The 5 step sequential evaluation process applies to all Social Security Disability and Supplemental cases except Supplemental Security Income for children. In the case of children's SSI, only the first 3 steps apply. Children may also be found disabled if it is shown their impairment is functionally equal to an impairment listed at step three of the process.
Step 1: Are you working and performing substantial gainful activity?
As of January 1, 2007, if you are earning $900.00 or more per month, the work is presumed to be substantial gainful activity. This amount changes each year. The reasonable costs of certain items and services which are needed to enable you to work in spite of your impairment should be deducted from the monthly income before determining whether the presumption applies. If you worked less than 6 months and had to stop working or reduce your earnings due to your impairment, the effort may be considered an unsuccessful work attempt and not considered substantial gainful activity even though you earned more than $900.00 per month. Social Security has specific factors they look at to make this determination.
If you are found to be performing substantial gainful activity, you will be found not disabled and the evaluation will not proceed to any of the subsequent steps.
Step 2: Do you have a severe impairment?
A severe impairment is an impairment or combination of impairments, which significantly limits your physical or mental ability to do basic work activities. Your age, education, and work experience are not considered in determining whether you have a severe impairment.
One court has held that an impairment is not severe if it is a slight abnormality which has such a minimal effect on you that it would not be expected to interfere with your ability to work, irrespective of age, education or work experience. Brady v. Heckler, 724 F.2d 914, 920 (11th Cir. 1984).
If you do not have a severe impairment, you will be found not disabled and the evaluation will not proceed to any of the subsequent steps.
Step 3: Do you have a "listed impairment"?
Social Security has listed specific criteria for specific impairments divided among the following categories:
- Musculoskeletal System
- Endocrine System
- Special Senses and Speech
- Multiple Body System
- Respiratory System
- Cardiovascular System
- Mental Disorders
- Digestive System
- Xeoplastic Diseases
- Genito-Urinary System
- Immune System
- Hemic and Lymphatic System
- Growth Impairment (Children only)
If your condition is found to meet all of the specific criteria of a particular listed impairment, you will be found disabled. When you have an impairment or combination of impairments which are not listed, a finding might be made that the impairment is equal in severity to a listed impairment. In that case, you will be found disabled at this step.
Step 4: Does your impairment prevent you from doing your past relevant work?
Past relevant work is work you performed within the 15 years immediately preceding the alleged onset date of your disability. If you can still perform any past relevant work, in spite of your impairment, you will be found not disabled and the evaluation will not proceed to Step 5. If it is found that you cannot perform any past relevant work, then the burden shifts to the government to show that there are jobs in the economy that you can perform and the evaluation proceeds to Step 5.
Step 5: Can you perform any other work which exists in significant numbers in the national economy?
Work exists in the national economy when there are a significant number of jobs in one or more occupations having requirements which you are able to meet with your physical or mental abilities and vocational qualifications. It does not matter whether work exists in the immediate area where you live, whether a specific job vacancy exists, or whether you would be hired. If there is a job you can still do, which exists in significant numbers, Social Security will find you are not disabled. There are many factors which go into this determination. Age, exertional limits, nonexertional limits, and whether you can work full time on a reliable and sustained basis are all important factors in this determination.
We are here to help.
If you are disabled and unable to do the work you once did, call Richard A. Culbertson at (407) 894-0888 or contact us online for a free initial consultation. We look forward to hearing from you.
Disclaimer: The following is general information only. The Social Security Act and related regulations, rulings and case law should be used or cited as authority for the Social Security disability programs.