Jun 12

The Sequential Social Security Disability Claims Process – The Final Step

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final step of sequential social security disability claim processThe final step in the Sequential Social Security Disability Claims Process is determining whether you can do any work. This article is the fifth and final article of the series relating to the social security disability process.

As an overview, in previous articles, we discussed the following first four steps:

STEP 1: Are you working? If you are performing Substantial Gainful Activity, Social Security probably won’t consider you to be disabled.

STEP 2: Is your condition severe? If your injuries or condition do not interfere with basic work-related activities, you would not be considered disabled and would not likely qualify for social security disability benefits.

STEP 3: Does your condition meet a Listing? If your condition is not on the list, Social Security has to decide if it is of equal severity to an impairment on the list. If it is not, you move on to Step 4.

STEP 4: Are you able to do past work? If your condition is severe, but not at the same or equal severity as an impairment on the list, then Social Security must determine if your condition interferes with your ability to do the work you did in the last 15 years. If it does not, your claim will be denied. If it does, you move on to the final step, are you able to do any work?

Since you have already established that you cannot do the work you did in the last 15 years, the final step of the sequential social security disability claims process requires the Social Security Disability Administrative Judge to look to see if you can do any other type of work. At this stage, and only at this stage, the Judge will consider your age, education, past work experience, and transferable skills to see if you meet the job demands of occupations listed in the Department of Labor’s Dictionary of Occupational Titles. If you cannot do any other kind of work, your claim for social security disability benefits will be approved.

Burden of Proof at Step 5 of the Sequential Social Security Disability Claims Process

Until now, you had to prove that you passed step one through five. At step 5, the “burden of proof” shifts to the Social Security Administration to show that work, other than what you performed in the past, exists in significant numbers in the national economy that you can make an adjustment to, considering the limiting effects of your impairment, age, education, and work experience. In other words, your residual functional capacity, your age, your education, and your work experience are considered to see you can make an adjustment
to other work. If SSA can prove that you can make an adjustment to other work, you are found to be not disabled. However, if they cannot prove that you can make an adjustment to other work, you are found to be disabled.

Using the Grids at Step 5 of the Sequential Social Security Disability Claims Process

The social security disability administrative law judge first considers the Special MedicalVocational Profiles. These Profiles are specific combinations of severity and the vocational factors of age, education and work experience. If the criteria of a profile is met, you are found to be disabled without any further evaluation. However, if no profile is met, then the judge goes on to consider the Medical-Vocational Guidelines (“The Grids”).

The grids requires the social security disability judge to determine your physical capabilities, despite his or her conditions, and cross reference those abilities your age, education and ability to do past relevant work.

The first step in using the grids is to determine the level of work you can currently perform. The level of work is called a residual functional capacity (RFC). There are 5 RFCs:

• Sedentary Work;
• Light Work;
• Medium Work;
• Heavy Work; and
• Very Heavy Work.

Secondly, social security disability recognizes that the older an individual is, the more difficult it may be for an individual to adjust to new work. There are three age groups:

• 18-49 years old = “younger individual”
• 50-54 years old = “approaching advanced age”
• 55 and older = “advanced age”

If you are “advanced age,” you have a stronger chance of qualifying for social security disability than a “younger individual.”

Thirdly, the amount of your education is important in determining whether you qualify for social security disability benefits. Arguably, the more education you have, the easier it is for you to adjust to new work.

Lastly, your previous work experience is considered. Social Security will classify the skill level of your past work and determine if the past work provided any skills that can be transferred to other work.

Conclusion

To qualify for social security disability benefits requires a lot of preparation, documentation, and patience. Each step of the sequential social security disability claims process must be thoroughly examined. Failure to properly prepare for any step could result in the denial of social security disability benefits.

Social Security AttorneysAlthough you are permitted to file your social security disability claim without an attorney, you should not try to do that. A good social security disability attorney will know what is needed and obtain the proper documentation to best present your case to the judge. Attorneys Lorrie Robinson and Matthew Noyes have been helping clients fight for social security disability benefits for years. In fact, they wrote a book on the battle for social security disability benefits. Get your free copy here.

If you need help fighting for social security disability benefits, call Attorneys Lorrie Robinson and Matthew Noyes today at 727-724-7884 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless they are able to get you qualified for social security disability.

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