Five Steps of Evaluation for Social Security Disability

Step One


Step Two

Are You Working? Has your condition lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months?

To be found disabled, an individual must be unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) by reason of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death, or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.

In considering “duration,” it is the inability to engage in SGA because of the impairment that must last the required 12-month period.

What is SGA?

To be eligible for disability benefits, a person must be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA). A person who is earning more than a certain monthly amount (net of impairment-related work expenses) is ordinarily considered to be engaging in SGA. The amount of monthly earnings considered as SGA depends on the nature of a person’s disability. The Social Security Act specifies a higher SGA amount for statutorily blind individuals; Federal regulations specify a lower SGA amount for non-blind individuals.

Amounts for 2018

The monthly SGA amount for statutorily blind individuals for 2018 is $1970. For non-blind individuals, the monthly SGA amount for 2018 is $1180. 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.

Trial Work Period

After a person becomes eligible for disability benefits, the person may attempt to return to the work force. As an incentive, we provide a trial work period in which a beneficiary may have earnings and still collect benefits.

For more information on this issue go to Substantial Gainful Activity.

Step Three

Do you meet the criteria of one of the Listing of Impairments for adults or children?

Listing of Impairments – Adults Listings click here.

Listing of Impairments – Childhood Listings click here.

 Step Four

Can you perform your past work?

Step Five

Can you perform any other work or meet competitive work standards. These standards include attendance, ability to work full-time.

Full time work is defined as 8 hours a day, five days a week with 2 ten minutes breaks a day and a ½ hour for lunch.

This analysis does not evaluate whether you can obtain a job or have transportation to a job or situations involving felony convictions or an inability to drive are not considered in this evaluation.

Steps Four and Five involve an analysis of your ability to perform job task and whether there are a significant number of jobs available that can accommodate your limitations in the normal course of business. For more information see