You have an injury or condition that prevents you from working, now what? Is social security disability an option? The steps for social security disability entitlement is often referred to the 5 step sequential evaluation process. In determining whether an individual is eligible for social security disability benefits, the law requires the following sequential five-step analysis:
- First, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) must determine if the claimant is currently employed;
- Second, determination must be made as to whether claimant has a severe impairment;
- Third, the ALJ must determine if impairment meets or equals one of the impairments listed by the Commissioner;
- Next, the ALJ must determine claimant’s residual functional capacity (RFC); and
- The judge must decide whether claimant is capable of performing work in the national economy.
The burden of proof with regard to first four steps for social security disability entitlement is on claimant, but if it is determined that claimant cannot perform past relevant work, then burden shifts to agency for step five which requires agency to examine whether claimant can do any type of work.
If the claimant fails at any of the steps for social security disability evaluation process, the case is over and the administrative law judge (ALJ) does not have to move on to the next steps. So this article will focus on the first step with later articles discussing the later steps.
The first step in the steps for social security disability is to determine of the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful employment. Substantial gainful employment is defined as activity that involves doing significant and productive physical or mental duties and is done (or intended) for pay or profit. Work activity is gainful if it is the kind of work usually done for pay or profit, whether or not profit is realized. If the claimant is involved in substantial gainful employment, then he or she is deemed not disabled. If, however, the claimant is not engaged in substantial gainful employment, then you need to proceed to Step 2.
What is substantial gainful activity? Typically, the Social Security Administration will look at the amount of the claimant’s earnings. Even if the claimant was an employee, but earned no wages, a presumption arises that she was not engaged in substantial gainful activity. Likewise, if the claimant earned less than the agency’s prescribed amount, there is a presumption that he did not engage in substantial gainful activity. For 2018, this monthly amount for statutorily blind individuals is $1970 and for non-blind individuals, the monthly substantial gainful activity is $1,180. If a claimant earns more than $1,180 monthly, they have failed Step One of the steps for social security disability benefits entitlement.
This money can come from any source. Some issue that the courts have had to address relating to SGA is money from prostitution and selling drugs. The courts have held that prostitution may qualify as substantial gainful activity. Also, a New Hampshire court reached the same conclusion for dealing drugs.
The steps for social security disability benefits can be confusing. It is important that each step is handled properly because if not, you don’t make it to the next step. So, if you are considering filing for social security disability benefits, make sure you understand the rules.
Attorneys Matthew Noyes and Lorrie Robinson help those fighting for social security disability benefits. They are also authors on the subject of the steps for social security disability benefits. Attorney Matthew Noyes is a named partner at the Tampa Bay law firm of Perenich Caulfield Avril Noyes – one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Pinellas County. Call Attorney Matthew Noyes now at 727-796-8282 or complete the form on this page or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.