The Five Step Sequential Evaluation Process

 

Step 1: Is the individual working above SGA level ? 

At the first step, the Social Security Administration considers an individual’s work activity, if any.  SGA stands for Substantial Gainful Activity and the amount changes each year. For 2018 it is $1180 for the non-blind and $1970 for the blind.  If an individual is working and his or her earnings average more than the SGA limit a month, then he or she is found not disabled.  If an individual is not working or his or her earnings are less than SGA, then the evaluation moves on to step two. 

 

Step 2: Is the individual’s physical and/or mental condition severe? 

At the second step, the Social Security Administration considers the medical severity of an individual’s impairment(s). An individual must have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment (or a combination of impairments) that is severe and meets the duration requirement. To be severe an impairment or impairments must interfere with basic work-related activities. 

To meet the duration requirement the impairment(s) must be expected to last twelve months or to result in death.  If the impairment(s) are not severe or do not meet the duration requirement, the individual is found not disabled. If the impairment(s) are severe and meet the duration requirement, the adjudicator goes to question three.

Basic Work-Related Activities can be broken down to physical tasks and mental tasks.

Physical: – lifting, carrying, standing, walking, sitting, pushing, pulling, plus the “nonexertional” activities rated in the Selected Characteristics Of Occupations Defined in the Revised Dictionary of Occupational Titles (SCO).

Mental: – Ability to understand, carry out, and remember simple instructions – Make simple, work-related judgments and decisions – Respond appropriately to supervision, coworkers and work situations – Deal with changes in a routine work setting 

 

Step 3: Does the individual’s medical condition meet or equal the severity of a Listing?

At the third step, the Social Security Administration also considers the medical severity of an individual’s impairment(s). The Social Security Administration maintains a listing of medical criteria that are considered to be so severe that an individual is found to be disabled if his or her medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) matches them. An individual’s impairment(s) can be found to meet the listed criteria exactly or to be of equal severity. 

If an individual has an impairment that meets or equals one of the listings and meets the duration requirement, he or she is found to be disabled. If an individual does not have an impairment that meets or equals one of the listings or the duration requirement is not met, the adjudicator goes to step four.

 

Step 4: Does the individual retain the capacity to perform Past Relevant Work (PRW) as he or she actually performed it? Does the individual retain the capacity to perform PRW as generally performed in the national economy?

An individual is responsible for submitting evidence showing that he or she has an impairment which prevents the performance of past relevant work. If this is shown at step 4, the adjudicator goes to step 5.

 

 

Step 5: Can the individual perform any other work that is available in the national economy in significant numbers?

At step 5 the “burden of proof” shifts to SSA to show that work, other than what the individual performed in the past, exists in significant numbers in the national economy that he or she can make an adjustment to, considering the limiting effects of the individual’s impairment, age, education, and work experience.

At the fifth and last step, an individual’s RFC and age, education, and work experience are considered to see if he/she can make an adjustment to other work.  If an individual can make an adjustment to other work, he or she is found to be not disabled.  If an individual can not make an adjustment to other work, he or she is found to be disabled.