When you file a Social Security Disability (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim, the government goes through a Five Step “Sequential Evaluation Process.” That means, the Social Security Administration (SSA) goes through its process step by step, in a particular order. At Step 1, SSA looks at whether you are currently earning under $1000 from work. If not, SSA moves to Step 2 to consider how severe your impairments are. To be severe, a physical or mental condition must impact your ability to work, but it also must last a certain amount of time or be so severe that it will cause your death.
Specifically, SSA regulations state:
Unless your impairment is expected to result in death, it must have lasted or must be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months. We call this the duration requirement.
42 C.F.R. Sec. 404.1509. This means that the government is evaluating whether you have been out of work for 12 months because of your disability. If you have not been out of work for 12 months already, they look at whether you are expected to be out of work for 12 months because of your mental or physical limitations and restrictions. Also, if you have a condition that will result in your death at any time (in fewer or more than 12 months), they will continue processing your claim.
Because the Social Security Administration’s process is sequential, if you do not meet step one, they do not go any further in the process. That means, if you have not been out of work 12 months or will not be out of work 12 months (or suffer from a condition that will cause you death), Social Security does not go to step 2 in your claim. Instead, they deny the claim. Step one is basically a way for Social Security to weed out claims that do not involve long term or serious disabilities.
Because the Social Security Administration’s process is sequential, if you do not meet the Step 2 duration requirement, SSA does not go any further in the process. That means, if your disability will not keep you out of work for 12 months or cause your death, Social Security will deny your claim. Step 2 is basically a way for Social Security to weed out claims involving short term disabilities, because the system is designed to pay Disability benefits for conditions that will cause disability for at least a year or cause someone to die.
John Tucker is a Social Security Attorney with offices in the Tampa Bay area. If you like a free consultation on your SSDI claim, call 813-594-5000 or 727-572-5000.