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What is this 5 Step Process that I Have Read About?

The Social Security Administration uses a 5 step process to determine if you are disabled.

The first step is:
  • Are you working?

If you are working and earning more than $1070.00 per month in 2014 then you are generally considered to be working and not eligible for social security disability benefits.  There are exceptions, however, for example you do not really perform any work, but your family allows you to be on the payroll at a family owned company.  If you are not working then the second step is:

  • Is your medical condition “severe”?

What does severe mean?  It means that your medical condition interferes and limits your ability to do basic work activities.  These activities include such things as walking, standing, sitting, bending, remembering, etc.  Usually most potential social security candidates meet step 2 as their condition is considered severe.  If your condition is considered severe the third step is:

  • Is your medical condition on the List of Impairments?

What is a list of impairments or listings as they are sometimes called?  The Social Security Administration has a detailed list of impairments that describes certain medical conditions.  It considers these conditions so severe that if you meet or equal the condition on the list you are automatically considered disabled.

If your condition does not meet one of the listings you continue on to step 4:

  • Can you do the work you did before?


  • This is very simple- can you perform any job that you have held in the past 15 years.  If you can perform ANY of your previous jobs then you are not considered disabled.  It does not matter if the job no longer exists or if you would never be hired for it.


  • If you can still perform it then you will not qualify for disability benefits.


Finally, the fifth step is:

  • Can you do any other type of work that exists in substantial numbers in the economy?


What does this mean?  The agency looks at your medical condition, age, education and past work history to see if there is any other type of job that you could perform.  It has to exist in substantial numbers which is an undefined number.  It does not matter if the job is below your educational level.  If you were a doctor, but can now be a ticket taker than you will not be considered disabled depending upon your age.  There are the grids to consider, but they will be discussed later in this blog.

Please remember that this is just general information, and everyone’s situation is unique. This article should not be considered legal advice.