How To Establish Disability

SSA uses a 5-step sequential disability evaluation process to determine if a claimant qualifies for SSDI/SSI. The following must be proved by a claimant in order to be found disabled:

  1. The claimant is not engaging in “substantial gainful activity” (SGA). A claimant cannot be earning more than $ 1310 per month; and
  2. The claimant has a medically determinable “severe” impairment which has lasted or expected to last at least 12 consecutive months; and
  3. The impairment meets or “equals” one of the impairments described in the social security regulations known as the “Listing of Impairments”; or
  4. Considering the claimant’s “residual functional capacity” (RFC), that is, what the claimant can still do even with his or her impairments, the claimant is unable to do “past relevant work” (PRW); and
  5. Other work within the claimant’s RFC, considering age, education and work experience, does not exist in the national economy in significant numbers.

Note also that there are other requirements, which have nothing to do with whether a claimant is disabled—SSA calls these “non-disability requirements,” that may be used by SSA to deny benefits.

Prior to applying for Social Security disability benefits or if you have been denied at an initial stage (prior to a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ), you should contact an attorney specializing in disability law to determine how your impairments, age, education, and past work might satisfy the different requirements set forth in the 5 step sequential evaluation process. Call Dean Law at 1-800-431-3212 for a free assessment of your claim.


Attorney Mark Dean helped me through my appeal process and hearing. I highly recommend him to anyone who needs help. He is very knowledgeable in the social security process.

Rhonda K.

I highly recommend the Law Offices of Mark Dean to anyone seeking help with their social security disability case. I refer anyone with social security disability or social security income problems to Mark because I know that he is highly experienced and will get great results for my referrals. If you are looking for legal help look no further.

Stephen G.