Proving disability, whether before or at a hearing with a federal Administrative Law Judge is different than any other kind of court you may have been to or seen. It is an informal process with different rules. Below is the five-step sequential process Social Security Administration uses to determine disability.
Step One – The first step in the sequential evaluation is determining whether or not you are working. You are only eligible for Social Security Disability Income benefits or Supplemental Security Income benefits if you are not working, or you are working but earning under the amount set for Substantial Gainful Activity.
Step Two – The second step is proving your impairments are severe, meaning they interfere with basic work-related activities and have interfered for a minimum period of 12 months.
Step Three – Step three is somewhat of a shortcut to disability; the Social Security Administration keeps a list of medical conditions they consider severe enough to award disability at this point in a hearing. The list can be found here. Most people do not meet one of these listings and move to the next steps.
Step Four – Step four is proving you cannot return to any of the work you have done in the past 15 years.
Step Five – Step Five is proving you cannot do any OTHER work in the national economy. Many people do not realize we have to prove you cannot do other work in the national economy, not just the work you have personally done in the past.