Helping People With Disabilities Nationwide

IMPORTANT: The Fifth Step in Every Social Security Disability Case

by | Sep 29, 2023 | SSD - Social Security Disability |

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 has 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 on the fifth step of the evaluation. While step four basically focused on whether an individual can perform any of their “past relevant work,” at step 5 the burden of proof shifts to Social Security Administration to show that “other” work exists in significant numbers in the national economy considering the individual’ age, education, past work experience, and residual functional capacity (physical and mental limitations). This means the individual is found to be unable to perform their past relevant work, the judge will determine whether there is other work they can perform within the national economy. This inquiry is made by the judge in the form of a hypothetical question posed to the vocational expert at the end of the hearing. These hypotheticals will include several limitations (both mental and physical) depending on what the individual’s disabling conditions are. Based on the hypotheticals posed, the VE may list jobs available in the national economy that can be performed within those specific limitations listed. If an individual can make an adjustment to other work based on their limitations, they will not be found disabled; if the individual cannot make adjustment to other work based on their limitations, they will be found disabled. However, there are several exceptions and specific criteria the judge considers including the Medical-Vocational Guidelines which takes into consideration an individual’s specific age, education, and work experience. Therefore, it is essential that an individual consult with an experienced attorney to consider all specific individual considerations that may be considered to see whether step 5 will be an issue in their disability case or not.



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