The state uses a five-step evaluation process, in a set order, to decide if you’re disabled.
- Are you working?
If you’re working and your earnings average more than a certain amount each month, you generally won’t be considered to be disabled.
The amount (referred to as “substantial gainful activity”) changes each year.
If you’re not working, or your monthly earnings average to the current amount or less, the state agency then looks at your medical condition at step two.
- Is your medical condition “severe”?
For you to be considered to have a disability by Social Security’s definition, your medical condition must significantly limit your ability to do basic work activities — such as lifting, standing, walking, sitting, and remembering — for at least 12 months. If your medical condition isn’t severe, you won’t be considered to be disabled. If your condition is severe, the agency staff begins step three.
- Does your medical condition meet or medically equal a listing?
The listing of impairments describes medical conditions that are considered severe enough to prevent a person from doing any gainful activity, regardless of age, education, or work experience. Within each listing, experts specify the objective medical and other findings needed to satisfy the criteria of that listing. If your medical condition meets, or medically equals (meaning it is at least equal in severity and duration to), the criteria of a listing, the state agency will decide that you have a qualifying disability. If your medical condition doesn’t meet or medically equal the criteria of a listing, the state agency goes on to step four.
- Can you do the work you did before?
At this step, the state agency decides if your medical condition(s) prevents you from performing any of your past work. If it doesn’t, agency staff decide you don’t have a qualifying disability. If it does, the state agency proceeds to step five.
- Can you do any other type of work?
If you can’t do the work you did in the past, agency staff look to see if there’s other work you can do despite your medical condition(s). The state considers your age, education, past work experience, and any skills you may have that could be used to do other work. If you can’t do other work, the state agency decides that you’re disabled. If you can do other work, you don’t have a qualifying disability.