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  • Stephanie O. Joy, Esq.

Step 4 - SSA's Sequential Evaluation Process - Multi-Part Series - "Prior Work Able?"

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 Administration (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. We have reviewed the first three, one, two and three steps. These Steps are referred to as the Sequential Evaluation Process.

After you are not found disabled by virtue of Step 3 (aka Listing Level Impairment), the SSA moves on to Step 4.

4. Can you do the work you did previously? The SSA will determine if your medical condition(s) prevent you "from performing any of your past work. If it doesn’t, [the SSA will] decide you don’t have a qualifying disability." https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/disability/qualify.html#anchor3.

When looking at your past work, the SSA does not go back to your first job, unless that first job was in the past 15 years. "Past Relevant Work" is what is considered, and that is defined as only that work the occurred in the past 15 years. If you can't perform your most recent relevant occupation as a Rodeo Cowgirl any longer due to a very impaired back, but you can perform the light exertional job you had 9 years ago as a Cashier, then the SSA will have no choice but to find you not disabled, unless some rarer exceptions apply. So, the key is to learn what all is required by that Cashier job, at least in the general economy. While it seems exertionally easier than the Rodeo job you just had to regretfully leave due to your severe impairment, it could very well have some requirements within most employment situations that you have not considered as important, but that you actually can no longer do for the amount of time of the work day that job would generally require of you. This Step is where the details of your Work History Report are extremely important. If you are not well-read on what those important details are, how they can impact the decision on your case, you best consider retaining an attorney before you provide some potentially vague answers that if drafted with more relevant detail, could get you past Step 4.

If the does find you can't do your past work, you are not denied at this Step 4 and you proceed to Step 5 of the Sequential Process. 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.

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Stephanie O. Joy
SSDI/SSI Attorney
2021

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