Ok, you’ve done it—you’ve applied for Social Security disability benefits and are waiting for an answer. Perhaps you’ve heard about the “five-step process” the SSA uses in determining whether you are disabled. What, exactly, is this process? 

Here’s a brief description of the “five-step sequential evaluation process” as it appears on the Social Security website. If your application fails or succeeds any one step, the SSA will probably stop there and make a determination. If the reviewers can’t make a determination, they will proceed to the next step.

  • Step One is an evaluation of your work status. If you are involved in “a substantial gainful activity,” the buck stops here and you will be denied.
  • Step Two looks at the “medical severity of your impairment(s).” Key here is the “duration requirement” that states your impairment has lasted or will last at least one year or will result in death.
  • Step Three also assesses medical severity, but this time a determination is made as to whether your impairment meets or equals the “listing of impairments” set forth by the SSA.
  • Step Four involves a look at your “residual functional capacity” to see if you can still do the work you did in the past. It includes your age, education, and work experience.
  • Step Five is another look at “residual functional capacity,” only this time the SSA attempts to determine whether you can make an adjustment to some other type of work.

If you clear the five-step process, or any one step along the way qualifies you, your benefits will be calculated and you will begin receiving them. However, this is not the case in more than two-thirds of initial applications. 

As New England Social Security disability specialists, we urge you to contact us if you are still waiting for a determination. We can check into the process and help you to provide additional information if it is needed. Call Keefe Disability Law today, toll free, at 888-904-6847 for answers to your questions.

John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney, Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyer
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