Navigating the New Jersey Disability Evaluation Process in Five Steps
Navigating the New Jersey disability evaluation process leaves many applicants confused and dazed. While a disability attorney helps in the process, knowing the steps the Social Security office follows to decide a disability claim helps clear the air.
Traditionally, five steps make up the disability evaluation process. These steps are completed in order. Only in cases of appeal due to denial are the steps revisited.
1. Earnings Assessment
The Social Security Administration (SSA) caps the salary you are allowed to earn each month. This figure is referred to as the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) limit. If you are employed, your monthly income is reviewed for this reason.
If your wages exceed the SGA, your case is denied immediately, and the disability evaluation process ends. However, if your documentation proves you are not employed or fall below the SGA, your case moves to step two.
2. Disability Severity Check
At this point, your claim of disability is evaluated. In this step, the SSA considers the impact your impairment has on your work activities. The evidence you provide is briefly reviewed to determine if sufficient proof exists to make a case.
If the SSA determines no significant impact on your ability to work is present, again, the process ends. On the other hand, evidence of interference with basic work activities moves you to the next step.
3. Medical Impairment Determination
Step three takes a closer look at your medical impairment and its severity. If your health issues fall within the list of medical conditions maintained by Social Security, you automatically qualify for disability.
If not, hope still exists. Next, the SSA determines if your medical issues equal the severity and duration requirements of the conditions listed. If so, again, your condition automatically qualifies. In cases where the issues do not match or equal listed impairments, your application moves to step four.
4. Medical Record Review
A comparison of your work history over the last 15 years and your medical documents help the SSA understand the impact your condition has on your ability to work. If you are capable of functioning in any “past relevant work”, the case is denied. However, if not, you move to the next step in the New Jersey disability evaluation process.
5. Work Capability Assessment
Finally, the SSA evaluates your ability to perform any job at all. While you may not be capable of maintaining your previous job, if you prove able to fill any job position, benefits are denied.