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The First Step in Every Social Security Disability Case

The definition of disability is the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medical determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which ahs lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months (The Social Security Act). Judges deciding disability cases must follow a strict 5 step sequential evaluation to determine whether an individual is disabled or not. In this blog post we will be focusing solely on the first step. The first step is essential because if the individual does not meet the criteria of step 1 then they will be found NOT disabled and unable to move forward in their case. The first step considers the individuals work activity (if any). Prior to the date of the hearing, an individual must have a consecutive 12 month duration of either not working or earning under substantial gainful activity (SGA). The substantial gainful employment amount changes every year and is set out by social security. In the year 2020 substantial gainful employment is $1,260 per month for non-blind individuals and $2,110 per month for blind individuals. Therefore, for example, if a non-blind individual’s hearing is set for January 1, 2021 they must have either not worked or earn less than $1,260 per month from at least January 1, 2020 through January 1, 2021. While this is the basic idea of the 1st step, it is important to note there are some exceptions and nuances including closed periods and unsuccessful work attempts. Therefore, working with an experienced attorney is helpful to ensure there are no issues with meeting step 1 in your disability case.

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