Social Security Disability benefits can be essential for Indiana residents who have an injury, illness or condition that renders them unable to work. Often, they are not even aware that they are eligible. When they look at the application process, it might initially seem daunting.
However, those who meet the requirements can be approved and get the benefits they so desperately need. It is imperative to understand how the Social Security Administration (SSA) assesses cases and what it looks for when decisions are made. Since this can be a confusing and complicated process, having assistance is wise.
What is the five-step sequential evaluation process?
The SSA has five steps as part of its evaluation process to decide if a person can get SSD benefits. First, it will see if the person is working and if it is considered substantial gainful activity (SGA). This is based on income. Currently, those who earn more than $1,350 or $2,260 if they are blind are viewed as performing SGA. If they are not earning this much, it goes to step two.
Step two is based on the severity of the impairment. Those who cannot do basic work activities physically or mentally and have not been able to do so for a minimum of 12 months will move on to Step three.
Step three will see if the person’s condition is on the list of disabling conditions. If it is not specifically on the list, their impairment could be compared with one that is on the list and that might be sufficient to go to Step four. Step four will check to see if the person can do the work they did before. If not, it goes to Step five to see if they can do any other types of work.
How can past relevant work affect my case?
Past relevant work is part of step four. The SSA will want to know if the person can still meet the demands of their past work physically and mentally. It is work that the person performed in the previous 15 years. It must have met the threshold for SGA and they must have been doing the job for an amount of time sufficient for them to learn how to perform its duties.
As the determination for past relevant work is made, the applicant will be asked to give information about the work they did. Others could be asked to give information about it. A person who worked in construction will have done physical labor that requires lifting, pulling, operating machinery, listening to instructions, following plans and much more. This is physically and mentally demanding. If their impairment prevents them from doing this type of work, they may be allowed to go to the next step.
Still, even if the person cannot do the work they did before, it does not automatically mean they cannot do other kinds of work. A person who cannot do the same work they did before could be able to adapt to a different type of work. Their work experience, age, education and other factors will be considered. If they cannot do other types of work, the case can continue and they have a good chance of approval for SSD benefits.
Getting SSD benefits can be complicated and having help might make the difference
People worked hard to have the protection of Social Security Disability benefits if they are needed. When they do need them, it can add to their list of troubles if they are denied for any reason. It is important to remember that simply being denied benefits does not automatically mean the case is over. There are options for appeal and they can be effective.
From the outset, knowing the fundamentals including the five-step sequential evaluation process and the importance of their past relevant work is key. Having representation from those who understand all levels of the SSD process may make it easier for them to get benefits. This can help with every level of a case.