Sequential Evaluation Process, a five part series: Part One
The Sequential Evaluation Process is one of the most important aspects in a typical social security disability case. So important that we decided to break our blogs up into a five part series. Why five parts, well because the sequential evaluation process contains five steps. Our first blog will give you a brief statement in regard to the process in general and will describe the first step in the sequential evaluation process.
In short, the sequential evaluation process is the methodology used by the social security administration to arrive at the 1 million dollar question; is this claimant disabled? This process is not difficult to understand and can give you a good idea to determine if you are in fact disabled, however it is quite difficult to predict how the social security administration will examine this process in light of the facts and circumstances of your case. Nobody can predict with certainty the social security administration's final determination, but an experienced social security disability attorney is one of the best places to start.
The sequential evaluation process behaves exactly as its name indicates. It is sequential. You have to meet each and every step along the ladder in order to receive benefits. If you fail at any level, even the very last step, you are not disabled according to the social security administration. But do not get discouraged many cases are denied through this process and if you have been denied, we encourage you to seek the advice of an attorney.
The first step of the process is the substantial gainful activity level (SGA). The SGA examines your past work history. This first step can be broken down into two categories. Your past work cannot be substantial and it cannot be gainful. Substantial work activity is the claimant doing significant physical or mental work activity. You cannot exceed substantial work. Gainful activity refers to the amount of earnings you have made in the past. Your earnings cannot be above the gainful activity level. To give you an idea, for 2004 the gainful activity level was $810 per month. $810 was the ceiling for gainful activity in 2004.
This is the first step. There is some grey area and there is some black and white issues presented in this first step. For example what is significant physical or mental work? These types of issues are presented quite often in a typical social security disability case and are very difficult to predict which side of the fence the social security administration will fall. These grey areas are where a qualified attorney is invaluable.
Stay tuned for the rest of the sequential evaluation process.