If you are 18 years old or older, there are five basic steps of a sequential evaluation process that the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers to decide if you are disabled.
1. Are you engaging in substantial gainful activity? Please see my other blog posting regarding this topic on my website at www.kathleenflynnlaw.com. In 2011, you cannot earn more than $1000 per month before taxes. If you earn this monthly amount or more, you will not receive social security disability.
2. Do you have a “severe impairment or “combination of severe impairments” that meet the duration requirement? Social Security Ruling 96-3p states that you have a severe impairment or combination of severe impairments if your mental and or physical condition(s) has more than a minimal effect on your ability to work. Social Security Ruling 82-52 states that your mental or physical condition (s) must have lasted or be expected to last for twelve months OR be expected to result in death. It is very unusual for an Adjudicator at the Georgia Department of Labor, Disability Adjudication Services (DAS) or for an Administrative Law Judge at the Office of Adjudication and Review (ODAR)to deny your claim at this
3. Do you have a mental or physical impairment that meets or equals a Medical Listing(s)? Please see my website at www.kathleenflynnlaw.com. for a comprehensive list of mental and physical conditions to determine if your condition is there and what symptoms, signs, laboratory results or medical findings SSA is looking for. In my experience, most cases are granted at this step by an Adjudicator at the Georgia Department of Labor, Disability Adjudication Services (DAS). At the initial and reconsideration levels, DAS has psychologists or physicians on staff, who review your file, to see if your impairment(s) meets or equals a medical listing.
4. Can you return to any of your past relevant work? There is a three part test that is applied to your past jobs. First, in addressing recency, was the work performed within the last 15 years? Secondly, was the work substantial gainful activity (see step 1 above)? Thirdly, did your job meet the duration requirement? Pursuant to Social Security Ruling 82-62, the job should have been performed long enough for you to have “learned the techniques, acquired information, and developed the facility needed for average performance in the job situation. The length of time this would take depends on the nature and complexity of the work.” SSA has a vocational expert analyze all your jobs in the past 15 years to determine if you performed a job long enough to meet the duration requirement. If SSA finds that you can return to your past relevant work, you will not be found disabled.
5. If you cannot return to any of your past relevant work, can you do any other work, which exists in significant numbers in the regional or national economy? SSA considers your age, education, and the skill level of your past relevant work in evaluating whether there are other jobs that you can perform. If you have a physical condition, you could be found disabled based on a grid rule /OP_Home/cfr20/404/404-ap11.htm If a grid rule does not apply to you or you have a mental illness, you could be found disabled based on vocational expert testimony provided that you have disabling limitations. In my experience, most cases are granted at this step by an Administrative Law Judge at the Office of Adjudication and Review (ODAR), since Judges do not use Medical experts very often at hearings.
If you have any further questions about whether you are entitled to social security disability benefits, please contact the Law office of Kathleen Flynn at 404-479-4431 or visit our website at www.kathleenflynnlaw.com