Are you disabled?  How does Social Security determine if you are disabled? 

You might be asking yourself how does Social Security determine if I am disabled or what is Social Security's test for disability?
This page will show you how Social Security determines if you are disabled for SSDI or SSI.

Social Security's definition of disability for individuals applying for Social Security Disability or SSI is the same.  It is the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) 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. 

Social Security's 5 step process to determine disability

Step One:     Social Security will determine if you are working. 

In 2010, if your earnings average more than $980a month Social Security will consider you working at Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level and usually they will find you not disabled.  If you are self-employed this can get a bit more complicated.

Step Two:     Do you have a condition that Social Security considers "severe." 

Social Security will consider your impairment(s) severe if your impairment interferes with basic work related activity.  If they find your condition not "severe," they will find you not disabled.

Step Three:     Social Security will decide if your condition is a "listed" impairment. 

If your condition is on Social Security's list and severe enough to meet the requirements of a listed impairment, you will be found disabled.  If your impairment is not on the list, Social Security will determine if your condition is equal to the severity of one of the listed impairments.  So, if Social Security finds that you meet or equal a listed impairment, you will be found disabled.  Please note: just because your condition has the same name as a condition on the listing does not mean you meet the listing.  Your condition must meet the requirements of that particular listing to be found disabled.  For a better understanding and to see these listings see the Medical Listings page.  For child listings, please see the page entitled Child Listings.

Step Four:     Social Security will decide if you can do your previous work. 

If Social Security decides that your condition is severe but your medical condition does not meet or equal a listing, then they will determine if your impairments keep you from being able to perform your past work.  If Social Security decides you can perform your past work, they will find you not disabled.  In other words, jobs you have performed have certain exertion and non-exertion requirements in order for you to perform them.  For example, if your previous job required you to lift 50 pounds and your medical condition limits you to lifting only 10 pounds, you would not be able to perform that particular prior work.  If Social Security determines you cannot perform all of your prior work for the past 15 years, then you go to the next step.  If they find you can perform any of your past work, then they will find you not disabled.

Step Five:     Social Security will determine if you can do any other work.  

If Social Security determines that there is a significant number of jobs in the local or national economy that you can do, then you will be found not disabled.  At this step, Social Security will consider your age, education, past work experience and any transferable skills to other jobs you might have.  To understand this step in the process, you must have an understanding of the GRID Rules.  See the GRID Rules page of this site for a detailed explanation.  If Social Security finds you can adjust to another type of work, they will find you not disabled.  If Social Security finds you cannot adjust to other work, you will be granted Social Security disability benefits.

So you might be thinking right now am I disabled?  The best I can tell you is to keep reading this site and try and understand as best you can every aspect of Social Security Disability.  Write down or print these steps.  This is the steps that someone at Social Security will use to determine if you are disabled.  If you are not working and you have a serious condition and are getting medical treatment you can probably focus on the last three steps.  First, study the medical listings in this site and find if your particular impairment is listed.  If it is learn what you have to prove to meet that listing.  Even if you think you meet a listing you should study the other steps because Social Security might not see it the way you do.  Second, think about your past work.  What did you do on that job?  Why can't you do it now?  Did your doctor fill out an RFC that shows your limitations would prevent you from performing your past work.  Next, can you perform any other work?  This can be rather complicated.  But again it will be determined by the limitations that the RFCs from your doctors and Social Security Employees provide.  The GRID Rules are important here and you must understand them.  But even if you do not fit an exact winning profile of the grid rules and have non-exertional limitations you can still be found disabled.  If you are under 50 years old chances are the non-exertional impairments will be key to winning your claim.  

You can call me at 1-877-527-5529 and ask for Karl.


 We have attempted to provide up to date and accurate information, however the information in this site is not guaranteed.  No attorney client relationship exist.  The information in this site is not a substitute for consultation with a quilified attorney.
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If you have any questions about your particular disability case and whether or not you are disabled call me for a free consultation at 1-877-527-5529.