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Definition of Disability

Under the Social Security Act, disability is defined as the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months. In other words, you will be considered disabled if due to a medical or mental condition, you cannot do work you did before and you cannot adjust to other work because of your condition(s), and your disability is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.

Social Security is total disability. Benefits are not payable for partial or short term disability. In order to evaluate your claim, Social Security uses a five step sequential process as follows:

Step One: Are you working?
  Obviously, if you are working you are not disabled. However, Social Security only considers that you are working if you are engaged in substantial gainful activity (SGA).

Step Two: Do you have a severe medical impairment?
  This test is easy to meet and is only intended to disqualify claimants that have no serious medical problems.

Step Three: Do you have an impairment that meets or equals on the listed impairments (listings) set forth by Social Security?
  Social Security has issued medical findings and symptoms for separate categories of impairments. If you medical evidence meets or equals the criteria in the listing, you will be considered disabled.

Step Four: Do you have the capacity to return to the work you have performed in the past?
  Social Security considers any work that you have done in the last 15 years as relevant work. Your capacity to perform this work depends upon the limitations you have considering your medical impairments. If your medical impairments prevent you from performing your relevant work, you will be found disabled.

Step Five: Do you have the ability to perform any other work that is found in the national economy?
  This is the final step by which you can prove your disability. At this stage, you have proven that you have a severe medical impairment that prevents you from performing any jobs held by you in the last 15 years. However, you must still prove that you cannot perform any other jobs which exist in the nation economy. For example, your past relevant work had heavy or medium physical requirements. You must also prove that based upon the physical and mental limitations of your medical impairments, and your age, education and work experience, that you cannot perform other jobs that have less physical requirements.

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