The Five-Step Process for Determining Disability
1. Is the claimant working?
If the individual is working and his or her work is substantial gainful activity ("SGA"), then the individual is not disabled for Social Security purposes.
2. Is the medical condition "severe"?
Does the individual have an impairment or combination of impairments that significantly limits his or her physical or mental ability to do basic work activities? Basic work activities include walking, standing, sitting, lifting, seeing, hearing, speaking, using judgment, understanding, and carrying out and remembering simple instructions. If the impairment or combination of impairments is slight and has no more than a minimal effect on the ability to do basic work activities, the individual is not disabled for Social Security or SSI purposes.
3. Is the medical condition included in the Listing of Impairments?
The Listing of Impairments describes impairments for each body system that are considered severe enough to prevent the person from engaging in any gainful activity. If the claimant's condition (or combination of medical conditions) is not on the list, the adjudicator looks to see if the severity of the condition is equal to a condition on the list. If, based on the medical records, the severity of the medical condition is on the list or equals that of a listed impairment, the claimant is disabled. If it does not, the adjudicator goes on to step 4.
4. Can the individual do the work that was done before?
This step requires that the adjudicator first determine the claimant's residual functional capacity ("RFC") or what the claimant can still do despite any physical and mental limitations caused by a medically determined impairment(s) and related symptoms. The residual functional capacity is then compared with the physical and mental demands of work that the claimant performed in the past 15 years. If the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform such work, he or she is found not disabled. If the claimant does not have the residual functional capacity to perform past work, the adjudicator goes on to step 5.
5. Can the individual do any other type of work?
If the claimant cannot do the work performed in the past, the adjudicator checks to see whether the claimant would be able to do other work. The adjudicator evaluates the claimant's residual functional capacity, age, education, work experience, and any skills that could be used to do other work. If the claimant cannot do other work, he or she is determined to be disabled. If the individual can do other work, he or she is found not disabled.