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Social Security uses a five step disability analysis to determine whether a claimant is disabled or not. The first step is relatively straightforward; is the claimant currently engaging in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)? The dollar amount that SGA represents is $1310 for the year of 2021, but Social Security regularly increases this number. Thus, step one boils down to whether claimant is currently making $1310 from employment. The claimant is not disabled if they are making SGA or higher. If they are making less than SGA, the analysis moves on to step two.

The analysis in step two is whether the claimant has a medically determinable impairment (MDI) or combination of MDI’s that are both severe and meet the duration requirement. This analysis boils down to a couple of smaller determinations. The claimant must demonstrate that they have a severe impairment through their medical records. The impairment also must be expected to result in death or continue to be severe and prevent performance of SGA for a continuous period of not less than twelve months. Both must be proven to move on to step three.

Step three involves whether the claimant has an impairment that meets a listing or medically equals a listing. If the impairment meets a Social Security listing, the claimant is disabled. If the impairment does not meet a listing the five step analysis continues on to step four. There are a lot of medical listings and each listing has numerous requirements to meet it. These listings can be found in appendix 1 or at https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/20/appendix-1_to_subpart_P_of_part_404.

Step four considers whether claimant can perform past relevant work. For Social Security purposes, past relevant work is limited to jobs performed in the last fifteen years, for a duration of at least 6 months. Anything less than six months is considered an unsuccessful work attempt. If Social Security determines that the impairment does not prevent the claimant from performing past relevant work, they are not disabled. If, however, they determine that the claimant is not capable of performing past relevant work, the analysis moves on to step five.

The final step, step five, involves whether the claimant can make a “vocational adjustment” to perform other jobs. This step involves four factors; the claimant’s RFC (residual functional capacity), age, education, and work experience. This is often the most difficult step to overcome because it must be shown that these factors prevent the claimant from engaging in other jobs that are capable of producing SGA or higher.

This analysis can prove to be a difficult burden, but we, at Mission Possible Employment Services, strive to help our clients navigate and overcome this five step analysis. Contact Patty at 866-686-7556 or patty@mpes.net for more details on how Disability Representatives can help you through this process.

~ Michael