Stephanie O. Joy, Esq.
*Step 2 - SSA's Sequential Evaluation Process - Multi-Part Series - "Severe Condition"
Updated: Nov 16, 2021
Note: This article is for general information only and is not legal advice to any particular reader or individual. For legal advice, you must specifically retain a lawyer.
As noted by the Social Security Adminstration (SSA), there are 5 overall steps, in sequence, that must be negotiated, when determining if someone is "disabled" under the SSA laws, rules and regulations. The VERY first question ("SGA") can be found here. These Steps are referred to as the Sequential Evaluation Process.
After it is determined that you are not working to such an extent that you breach the SGA threshhold, your claim moves to the next step.
2. Is your condition "severe"?
The SSA laws, rules and regs require that "[y]our condition must significantly limit your ability to do basic work-related activities, such as lifting, standing, walking, sitting, or remembering – for at least 12 months. If it does not, we will find that you are not disabled." https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/disability/qualify.html#anchor3
As noted, then, you must have a proven condition/impairment (medical diagnosis) and it must be severe. This is not all that hard to establish, severity. Obviously if a condition does not bother you or hinder you in any way, or only once in a blue moon, it will not be severe. At times, a non-severe condition progresses over time to become severe, impeding work efforts to some degree, or preventing the full-time performance of some or all kinds of occupations. At that point then, it may be found to be severe. Some conditions that hinder only one type of task, such as standing/walking, may alone be entirely disabling as defined by SSA law, if severe enough. The 12 month requirement is known as the durational requirement. Social Security Disability does not provide benefits for a period of disability from working that is less than 12 months long. However, the 12 months need not have passed already, in order to file. Rather, the medical evidence will have to later prove that it is severe enough to have your medical providers determine (and/or the SSA medical experts) expect that it will continue on to render you unable to work for at last 12 months total. Thus, you need not prove your severe disabling condition will be lifelong or that there is no hope of recovery or notable improvement - only that it will be preventive of work for 12 months total, or more.
Note: The foundation of evidence is that found in the medical records. While the SSA will ask you about your condition and how you function each day and experience limitations stemming from your condition(s), that will not meet your burden. There must be evidence of the condition(s), the severity and the matching duration of both for at least 12 months, in the medical records. As the claimant, you have the burden of producing this evidence, although the SSA will help you obtain it if it exists. It may also schedule a Consultative Examination, at its expense, although that is usually not the best of signs.
For a free Attorney-Level Disability Evaluation and possible attorney representation, we welcome you to fill out the very short Free Disability Evaluation Form. Or, feel free to call 201-317-0610.