In judging whether or not you qualify for disability payments, Social Security uses a five-step evaluation process.

In the first step they will want to know if you are working and earning more than one thousand and forty dollars a month. This is the dollar amount for 2013, and the amount changes from year to year. If you are earning $1040 a month, Social Security cannot consider you as disabled.

The second step asks the question, "Is your condition severe?"—that is, do your medical problems interfere with your basic work-related activities? If they do, then Social Security will move on to Step Three.

The Social Security Administration maintains a list of medical conditions that are so severe they automatically mean that you are disabled. In this third step, Social Security looks at that list. If your condition is on the list, they will automatically rule that you are disabled and qualify for disability payments. Most people are not found disabled at Step Three. If your condition is not on the list, then they move on to Step Four.

In this step Social Security will decide if your medical condition prevents you from doing any of the work you have done in the past 15 years. If Social Security rules that you can resume your past work, your claim will be denied. If your medical condition makes this impossible, then Social Security will proceed to Step Five.

In this final step, Social Security will look at your situation and decide if you are able to adjust to other work. Social Security will consider your medical conditions, your age, education, past work experience and any transferable skills you may have. If you cannot adjust to other work, your claim will be approved. If Social Security believes you can adjust to other work, your claim will be denied.

Step five is applied differently for people 50 years of age and older. Social Security recognizes that people 50 years old and above may be unable to return to their past work because it is too physically demanding. They also know that it is more difficult for older Americans to transfer to a new field outside their past work experience. Employers are less likely to hire and train people in a new field when they are close to retirement age.

The Social Security Disability claims system is complex and confusing. More than two out of three first-time Social Security disability claims are denied. But don't give up. For a free evaluation of your case, call Cuddigan Law.

Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska