Understanding the Social Security Administration’s Sequential Review Process in Springdale & Beyond

For adult disability claims from Springdale and beyond, the Social Security Administration (SSA) utilizes a 5 Step sequential process. The 5 step process provides for a uniform handling of Social Security Disability cases regardless of where they are filed or decided upon in the United States. At the completion of the process, a disability benefits applicant will be provided with notice that an award was granted or denied and a statement of reasons for that decision. For the remainder of this post, the Law Practice of Ken Kieklak will explain each step of the sequential evaluation process and the types of information the SSA is looking for at each step of the process.

Step 1 is focused on SSD Program Requirements

Step 1 of the process is concerned with determining whether you can qualify financially for the disability program. This determination is made through something called substantial gainful activity (SGA). SGA includes the things that a person does for compensation or the types of things that are typically done for pay. Amounts of SGA permitted are adjusted as per the national average wage index.  For 2014, the limit on SGA for a disabled non-blind individual is $1070. For a SSD applicant who is blind, the limit on SGA is $1,800 monthly. In 2015, the limit for a non-blind, disabled individual will be $1090 with $1820 being the limit for blind applicants.  If you exceed the monthly limits for SGA, you will not be eligible for SSD benefits.

Steps 2 & 3 are focused on your medical condition

At steps 2 and 3 of the process the SSA will focus on your impairment or impairments. At step 2 the agency will determine if your condition is severe as defined by SSA regulations. A severe limitation is one that results in significant limitations to your activities. A non-severe impairment is one that cause no impairment or only slight impairment. To qualify, the injury or disability must also be expected to last for a minimum of 1 year or result in death. Thus, at Step 2 applicants are screened out if they do not have both a severe condition and a condition of requisite duration.

At step 3 of the process certain conditions that are recognized to be extremely severe by the SSA permit an individual to qualify solely through medical criteria. These conditions are called Listed Conditions by the SSA. There are more than 100 conditions that are listed by the SSA. Furthermore, if your condition is medically or functionally equal to a listed condition, you can also qualify for benefits. If you do not qualify at step 3, it does not necessarily mean that your condition is not severe but rather that the SSA does not view the condition as sufficient to qualify without more proof.

Steps 2 and 3 require a broad array of medical evidence not limited to medical records, diagnostic imaging tests, blood tests, and practically any other medically accepted and documented test.

Steps 4 & 5 are concerned with the things that you can do and the work that’s available

Step four of the process is concerned with determining the things that you can still do despite your severe impairment. The things you are still able to do is termed residual functional capacity (RFC) by the SSA. Once your RFC is determined, the SSA will use it to determine if you would be able to perform the types of work you have done previously. In general, previous work is limited to the work you have performed in the past 15 years. If the SSA determines that you can perform past work you will not qualify for benefits. If you are unable to perform past work then you will proceed to the 5th and final step.

Step 5 is utilized by the SSA to determine whether there is alternate work that, based on your RFC, you can perform. This determination is based on your age, training, vocational history and education. At Step 5 it will also be determined whether there are a sufficient number of jobs available in your region. At Step 5 your benefits will either be granted or denied.

Information that can help prove your condition include reports from past employers, self- reporting of activities of daily living (ADL), reports by friends and families of your ADL, reports by SSA-appointed vocational experts and any other information that explains your ability to function independently.

Put our Social Security Disability experience to work for you

For more than 20 years Fayetteville AR disability lawyer Ken Kieklak has fought for hard-working Arkansans who have had to stop working due to a serious injury or illness. The Disability lawyers at the Kieklak Law firm provides clear advice and guidance to you. To schedule your free and confidential SSD consultation call (479) 316-0438 or contact us online.