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The Law Offices of Steinhardt, Siskind and Lieberman, LLC. Something else

Sequential Evaluation Process for SSDI Disability Explained


If you have looked into filing for Social Security disability, you may have already discovered that it can be very difficult to get approval the first time around. In fact, the Social Security Administration (SSA) reports that just 21 percent of all applicants are awarded benefits after filing an initial application. The remaining 79 percent must go through additional routes of appeal to get Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. The key to gaining approval at the earliest stages of the disability process is understanding what SSA is assessing when looking at your application.

The agency uses a Sequential Evaluation Process (SEP) when awarding benefits, so you need to ensure that you supply all evidence and information. The basic criteria are that you must have a disabling medical condition, along with sufficient work credits for SSDI. The details are much more complicated, so retaining a Maryland Social Security disability lawyer is essential. An overview of the SEP will also be helpful.

  1. Current Work: SSA needs to know whether you are working right now, since you will be disqualified if you are making income. The threshold for measuring your earnings is Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). If you are working and your pay is above the SGA, you are not eligible for SSDI. For 2024, the SGA is $1,550. When your income falls below this level, SSA moves on to the next factor. 
  1. Severe Medical Impairment: Meeting the medical requirement is one of the most challenging aspects of Social Security disability, and SSA starts by looking at your disabling medical condition. To qualify, you must have a severe medical impairment that prevents or restricts your ability to:
  • Walk
  • Stand for lengths of time
  • Sit
  • Lift and carry objects
  • See, hear, and speak
  • Process cognitive information
  • Carry out job tasks 
  1. The Blue Book: You may not satisfy the severe medical impairment standard, but you could still qualify if your condition is listed in SSA’s Listing of Impairments. The so-called Blue Book includes many different injuries and ailments affecting different parts of the body. You might be eligible if your medical condition meets or is equal to an item in the Blue Book. 
  1. Past Work: Though you may not be able to work in your current position because of a disability, SSA will still evaluate whether you can do work from a prior job. If you could earn income at a level of SGA by doing past work, your claim may be denied. 
  1. Other Work: A final step in the review is whether you can do any other work, since you could meet SGA at a different position. SSA will consider reasonable accommodations for your disability.

Discuss the Process with a Maryland Social Security Disability Attorney

These are very detailed evaluations regarding your SSDI eligibility, so you want your application to be thorough and meticulous. For more information on the Sequential Evaluation Process, please contact the Law Offices of Steinhardt, Siskind and Lieberman, LLC to set up a free consultation. Our office serves clients throughout Maryland from offices in Glen Burnie, Owings Mills, Ellicott City, and Annapolis.

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