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Sequential Evaluation Process, a five part series: Part Two

The next step in the sequential evaluation process is for the Social Security Administration to determine if the claimant's impairments are severe enough to meet the Social Security Administration's guidelines. The word severe may seem like a daunting hurdle to overcome, but do not be discouraged. The Administration used the word severe to rule out those cases that either had no physical or mental impairment or merely slight physical or mental impairments. Severe according to the Administration would include almost any reduction in what the claimant is able to perform despite that claimant's disability or impairment. The Social Security Administration is required to take a liberal view of the definition of severe. In the past, claimants have met this hurdle by combining several nonsevere impairments to meet the definition of severe. In addition, several claimants have met this hurdle by linking symptoms they may have such as pain, stress etc, to a medically determined impairment. In certain situations this would also meet the definition of severe. However note, just because a claimant complains of pain and other various symptoms does not necessarily qualify as severe. The symptoms must be supported by medical documentation. In other words, the symptoms complained of by the claimant must normally and usually directly follow the disability for which the claimant is before the ALJ. While the duration requirement, the 12 month period, is not part of the sequential evaluation process it is wise to briefly mention this requirement here. It can reasonably be implied that the administration requires the severity to last throughout the duration of the 12 month period. In other words, the impairment must be continuously severe to meet the second step of this process. Stay tuned for the third installment of our discussion of the sequential evaluation process.