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The Social Security Administration engages in a 5-step analysis to determine whether an applicant for North Carolina disability benefits is “disabled,” as that term is defined by the Social Security regulations. This is called the “sequential evaluation process” because each step must be considered in consecutive order. It works like a flow-chart, in that an incorrect answer at any step stops the analysis at that point and results in a finding of “not disabled.” The five questions that must be answered are:
Step 1: Are you working? If you are working and earning a minimum monthly amount, as established by the Social Security Administration, then you are not disabled. If you are not working, then the Social Security Administration will consider your medical condition, in step 2.
Step 2: Do you have a “severe” impairment? A “severe” impairment significantly limits or precludes your ability work, and is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death. If your impairment is severe, then the Social Security Administration will consider whether it is severe enough to meet a Listing, in step 3.
Step 3: Is your impairment a Listing impairment? The Listing of Impairments, found in the Social Security regulations, describes medical conditions that are deemed so severe that a person with a Listing impairment (or the medical equivalent of a Listing impairment) is considered disabled by law. If your impairment does not “meet or medically equal” a Listing impairment, the Social Security Administration will consider non-medical factors related to your North Carolina disability claim, in steps 4 and 5.
Step 4: Can you do the easiest work you have done in the past 15 years? If you answer “no” to this question, then the Social Security Administration will consider step 5.
Step 5: Are you capable of performing any other type of work? The Social Security decision-maker will consider your medical condition, as well as your age, education, work experience, and skills. If, considering these medical and vocational factors, you cannot do other work that is available in North Carolina or in significant numbers nationally, then you are disabled.
How the SSA Determines Disability
When evaluating Social Security disability claims, the SSA will go through a formalized evaluation process that looks into the severity of your disability and your ability to perform work-related activity. To better understand how you and your North Carolina disability attorney can argue that you are disabled, you should review this flowchart describing the process.
Contact A North Carolina Disability Attorney
An experienced North Carolina disability attorney can perform a 5-step analysis of your claim and help you avoid potential pitfalls in the North Carolina Social Security disability determination process. Please contact us if you would like our thoughts on your case.