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Home » Glossary » Sequential Evaluation Process

Definition of Sequential Evaluation Process

Many disability claimants want to know how the Social Security Administration (SSA) makes their disability determination. Determination for disability benefits is done through the Sequential Evaluation Process. The Sequential Evaluation Process is a five step evaluation process which allows the SSA to ask a series of questions to determine if a claimant is eligible for disability benefits.

The first step in the process is to determine if the disability applicant is working and performing what the SSA terms "substantial gainful activity" (SGA). In 2013, if the claimant is working and earning more than $1,040 a month they will be considered not disabled because the SSA will decide they are performing SGA work.

If the claimant is not performing SGA work the SSA will move to step 2 of the process. Step 2 asks whether or not the claimant's condition is "severe" and interferes with their ability to work. If the answer is yes, they proceed to step 3.

In step 3 the SSA determines whether or not the claimant's condition and its corresponding symptoms meets or exceeds a listing on the SSA Listing of Impairments. Conditions on this list are considered automatically disabling. If a claimant's condition is on this list, they are considered automatically disabled and their claim is approved (assuming they meet the nonmedical requirements). If not, the SSA will proceed to step 4.

Under step 4 the Social Security Administration will determine if the claimant has the physical and mental capacity to perform past relevant work, which is any work they have performed in the last 15 years. If they can perform other work the SSA denies their case. If not, the SSA moves to step 5, which is the final step in the Sequential Evaluation Process.

Finally, on step 5 the SSA will review the claimant's medical records to determine if the claimant can retrain for new work. To make this determination the SSA will review a series of factors, including the claimant's age, health condition, past work experiences, transferable work skills, and educational experience. If the SSA decides the applicant cannot adjust to other work, their claim will be approved. If the SSA decides they can retrain for new work, the SSA will expect them to do so, and will deny their case.

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