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For purposes of Social Security disability, the sequential evaluation process means that the Social Security Administration (SSA) must answer a specific set of questions in a specific order to determine eligibility.

The set of questions consists of five inquiries. The adjudicator, or person deciding whether or not to approve the Social Security disability application, must answer the following questions in the order that they are provided below.

The Five Questions

In order to determine eligibility, the adjudicator must decide:

  • First, is the applicant currently engaged in substantial gainful activity?
  • Second, is the disability severe?
  • Third, does the disability meet the requirements of a condition included in the Listing of Impairments? If not, is it substantially equal to such a listing?
  • Fourth, can the applicant do any of his past relevant work?
  • Fifth, can the applicant do any other kind of work?

While the questions must be answered in the order provided above, they may not all need to be answered. After each question the adjudicator has two options. He may decide that the applicant is disabled or that the applicant is not disabled. If the adjudicator finds that the applicant is disabled, the inquiry ends and the application should be approved. No additional questions have to be answered. However, if he does not find the applicant to be disabled then he must go on to the next question on the list in the order provided above.

If you have any questions about this process or how it might apply to you, please fill out our online contact form and we will contact you directly to answer your questions.

Morgan & Weisbrod LLP

by Paul B. Burkhalter
Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.


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