5 Steps in Evaluating an Adult Social Security Disability Claim

Social Security disability for individual’s over the age of 18 is defined as the inability to perform any substantial gainful activity due to any medically determinable physical or mental impairment or combination of impairments that can be expected to result in death, or has lasted or will be expected to last 12 continuous months or more. 

There are 5 basic steps in evaluating an adult Social Security disability claim:

Step 1: Are you working?

Generally, individuals applying for disability do so because they are unable to work, or they have significantly cut down their hours due to a medical condition.  If you are earning $1,200 gross income per month or more in 2019 Social Security presumes that to be substantial gainful activity and you will be denied unless you can show reasons why the income should not be considered.  Attorneys at Martone Law Firm can help you identify whether or not your income meets the maximum limit or gather information about accommodations and impairment-related work expenses.  

Step 2: What are your severe impairments?

Your medically determinable physical and/or mental conditions must be proven with objective findings from a medical provider and must be severe enough to keep you from working for at least 12 consecutive months or longer.  Attorneys at Martone Law Firm can help you with identifying the necessary medical information needed to prove a severe medically determinable impairment.       

Step 3: Do any of your impairments meet a Listing?

If you have an impairment that meets or equals one of the listed impairments and meets the 12-month duration requirement, you may be found disabled.   There is a listing for each major body systems impairments that Social Security considers to be severe enough to prevent an individual from performing any gainful activity, regardless of age, education, or work experience.  Each listing provides the criteria needed to establish that you are disabled.  Attorneys at Martone Law Firm can assist with obtaining the information needed to prove a listing is met.   

Step 4: What is the most you can do physically and/or mentally? 

Is it enough to return to your past work?  At this step, your residual functional capacity (RFC) is determined.  Your RFC is the most you can do despite your impairments.  If you can still do your past relevant work you will be found not disabled.  Attorneys at Martone Law Firm can help correctly identify your past work and advocate for the reasons why you cannot return to that work, including identifying whether your job was a composite job, or if you whether or not you have transferable skills.   

Step 5: Is there other work you can do?

You are not disabled just because you cannot do the work you used to do.  Social Security determines if you are able to perform other work based on your age, education, and past work experience if any.  A claimant may be able to perform other work based on transferable skills acquired from past work or their education.  If you are under 50 years old, you must be unable to do any full time job that exists in the national economy.  Social Security does not consider whether there are employers hiring in your local area, the rate of pay, or your interest in performing a particular job; the determination is whether or not you are able to do it and does the job exist in significant numbers in the national economy (the entire U.S.). 

Attorneys at Martone Law Firm can help identify the reasons why you cannot perform other work and at an administrative hearing, cross-examine the Vocational Expert’s testimony regarding your ability to do other work.