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SSDI benefits three ways to win

Unfortunately, most disability applicants have very little idea how the Social Security Disability process works and how to win SSDI benefits. In fact, like other governmental organizations, the SSA is a jumbled mess of forms, definitions, and procedures that are confusing to the average person.


There is a great deal of information online that you can read to find out more information about the process and how to win SSDI benefits, but unless you are a lawyer, a disability adjudicator, or a judge, you may not understand all of the legal jargon and what you must do to actually win SSDI benefits.

Recently on our disability forum a user asked, “I have just applied for disability benefits and I know there are certain requirements to win SSDI benefits and to be considered disabled according to the SSA. Can you give me more information about this process? I want to win SSDI  benefits the first time I apply.”

The five step sequential evaluation process and understanding how to win SSDI benefits

The Social Security Administration uses what they term a “Five Step Sequential Evaluation Process” to determine if a claimant is disabled. They will evaluate the claimant at each level in the process. If at any point the claimant does not meet a particular requirement, they will be found not disabled. If they meet one step, they will proceed to the next step. The five steps of the process are as follows:

  1. Are You Working?

  2. Is Your Condition “Severe”

  3. Does Your Condition Meet a Listing?

  4. Can You Perform Your Past Relevant Work?

  5. Can You Perform Any Work

Three ways to win SSDI benefits

Information about each of these steps can be found online on or on the SSA website. What SSDI applicants generally want to know, however, is how they can win their SSDI case. So assuming you are not working and making too much money (Step 1) and your condition is severe and will last 12 continuous months (Step 2), the SSA will use three ways to determine whether you are disabled.

The first method is by determining whether your condition meets or equals a listing found in the SSA Listing of Impairments (Step 3). This listing is a grouping of some of the common conditions and their symptoms that the SSA considers automatically disabling. Consider, even if your condition is not listed, you may still be found not disabled if you have medical evidence to prove your condition “equals” a listing in severity.

Win SSDI benefits based on my Residual functional Capacity to work

If your conditions does not meet or equal a listing, the SSA will determine if you have the residual capacity to work (Step 4 and Step 5). This includes both your physical capacity to sit, stand, walk, lift, carry, push and pull, and your mental ability to “carry out certain mental activities, such as limitations in understanding, remembering, and carrying out instructions, and in responding appropriately to supervision, co-workers, and work pressures in a work setting, may reduce your ability to do past work and other work.”

Grid Rules and SSDI benefits

Finally, if you have a physical limitation to work, the SSA will also evaluate your age, work history, and your transferrable work skills. Rules for this evaluation are done through a process referred to as medical vocational guidelines. T

hese vocational realities are codified in the grid rules.  Using this grid certain claimants, especially those who are older with limited transferrable skills, may be determined disabled.

Bottom line: Understanding the disability process and how the SSA makes a disability determination is the most important step to winning benefits the first time you apply.

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