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What are the 5 steps of disability determination?

Those who wish to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance must pass a five-step evaluation to measure their disability, so as to avail of the benefit.

Big changes coming for Social Security in 2023

Workers who want to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income need to go through a five-step evaluation to measure their disability in order to qualify for the benefit.

The process is the Social Security Administration’s basis to deny or approve your application.

These are the five steps of disability determination.

1. Substantial Gainful Activity

The first step in the process is to determine if the individual is engaging in substantial gainful activity. SGA refers to any work performed for pay or profit, whether full- or part-time. If the worker is engaging in SGA and their earnings exceed a certain threshold, they will generally not be considered disabled.


2. Severity of impairment

If the individual is not engaging in SGA, the next step is to learn if they have a severe impairment that significantly limits their ability to perform basic work activities. An impairment is considered severe if it seriously affects a person’s ability to perform basic work-related tasks, such as sitting, standing, walking, lifting, or carrying.

3. Listing of impairments

If the applicant has a severe impairment, the next step is to find out if it meets or equals a condition included in the Social Security Administration’s listing of impairments. This list, also known as the blue book, includes medical conditions that are considered serious enough to automatically qualify an individual for disability benefits.

4. Ability to perform past work

If the person’s impairment does not meet or equal a condition in the list, the next step is to figure out if they can perform their past relevant work. This refers to work that they have performed in the past 15 years, at the substantial gainful activity level, and for a significant amount of time.

5. Ability to perform other work

If the individual cannot perform their past relevant work, the final step is to establish if they can do other work that is widely available in the country’s economy. The SSA considers the individual’s age, education, and work experience when making this assessment. They will also take into account the person’s ability to perform basic work-related tasks despite their impairment. If they cannot engage in any other work, they will generally be considered disabled.