Representing Disabled Clients for Over 25 Years

Social Security Lawyer

Donald H. Peters


Percentage Fee

Only If You Win!

The Sequential Evaluation Process Used by SSA to Evaluate Claims

Social Security uses a step by step process to evaluate claims.  If you satisfy one step, you go on to the next and so on.  If you meet the listing step, however, you win without any further evaluation.  If you lose at the listing step, you go on to the next.  If you lose, however at any other step, you lose. 

The steps are shown below:

  • Step 1: Are you working? +

    If you have earnings in a  specified amount per month, you generally cannot be considered disabled.

    The monthly SGA amount for statutorily blind individuals for 2008 is $1,570. For non-blind individuals, the monthly SGA amount for 2008 is $940. SGA for the blind does not apply to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, while SGA for the non-blind disabled applies to Social Security and SSI benefits. See historical series of SGA amounts below.


  • Step 2: Is your condition severe? +

    Your impairments must interfere with basic work-related activities for your condition to be severe. If not, you lose.  If yes, you go on to the next step.  Many applications are denied on this basis.  When you get to a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge, Severity is rarely an issue since most conditions are deemed severe in light of Federal Cases construing the term "Severe".

    The fight at the hearing usually involves step number 5.

  • Step 3: Is your condition found in the list of disabling impairments? +

    The Social Security Administration maintains a list of impairments for each of the major body systems.  Each listing has several elements and if you meet each required element, your condition will be presumed to be so severe that SSA will determine that you cannot work.  Thus, if you meet the terms of a listing, you win.  If not, you go on to the next step.

    Note: Meeting a listing is very difficult and most people will not meet a listing.  However, some people will come close to meeting one or more listings.  A Claimant can still win at this step if the Claimant has an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals a listing.  Therefore, even if you don’t meet the literal terms of a listing, it is helpful to show why you come close to meeting all the listings resembling your conditions.  Further, even if you don’t meet a listing but you come close, Judges are often swayed by this when deciding the following steps.

  • Step 4: Can you perform your past work you performed in the last 15 years? +

    If you can perform any jobs that you performed within the past 15 years, you will lose at this step. If you cannot perform any of those jobs, you go on to the next step.

  • Step 5: Can you do any other type of work? +

    Once your case gets to a hearing, this is usually the most critical step. This is typically what the big fight is over.

    Many people think that if they cannot perform their last job, they are disabled.  Such is not the case under Social Security rules. If you cannot perform work that you performed within the past 15 years, the process will simply continue on to this step.

    At this final step, Social Security will look at your age, education, experience, training, and your limitations and decide whether there are any other jobs that you can perform. If there are other jobs that you can perform and they exist in significant numbers, then you will lose. If there are no jobs that you can perform or if jobs you can perform do not exist in significant numbers, then you should win.

    At the hearing, the Judge will typically pose several hypothetical questions to a Vocational Expert hired by Social Security. In response to at least one of the hypothetical questions, the Vocational Expert will usually testify that there are several jobs that you can perform. If the Judge accepts that testimony, you will lose. This is why it is so important not only to have an Attorney with you at the hearing, but to have an Attorney with years of formal and on the job training in the art of cross-examination and trial techniques taught in law schools.

    When preparing your claim, you should think of the easiest jobs imaginable and ask yourself whether you would be able to perform that job and if not, why not. This is a good question that you should think about. You should discuss this ;with your Attorney as soon as you can in the process, several times during the process, and even before you submit your application if possible.

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Call Now!

If you wish to hire a licensed Attorney to help win your claim, call Social Security Professionals.

Call Social Security Professionals now to discuss your claim for free!

You need no money to hire Attorney Donald H. Peters

(248) 549-3485

To discuss the Social Security Sequential Evaluation Process and how it relates to your specific claim, call Social Security Professionals for free.

Call Social Security Professionals now to discuss your claim for free

You need no money to hire Attorney Donald H. Peters

(248) 549-3485

Southfield Lawyer Donald Peters of the Law Office of Donald H. Peters, P.C. in Southfield, Michigan, handles Social Security Disability claims throughout Michigan and in the Tri-County Metro Detroit area including Detroit, Southfield, Novi, Warren, Royal Oak, Roseville, Livonia, Mount Clemens, Sterling Heights, Farmington Hills, Birmingham, Berkley, Oak Park, West Bloomfield, Ann Arbor, Eastpointe, Waterford, Flint, Canton, Taylor, Romulus, Westland, Clinton Township, Troy, Dearborn, Brighton, Howell, Pontiac, Rochester Hills,  as well as Wayne County, Oakland County, Macomb County, Ingham County, and Livingston County, Michigan.


Material presented on the Social Security Professionals website is intended for general informational purposes only.  It is not intended as professional advice in any manner and should not be construed as such.  Individuals should never act upon any information provided in a website except that you should seek the advice of an Attorney. 

For the most up to date content regarding Social Security Disability please reference the Social Security Administration's website.

You may call Social Security Professionals and discuss your claim for free at:

(248) 549-3485