After your hearing with the ALJ, you will receive a decision
in the mail. The decision of approval or denial will also come with an
explanation of how the decision was reached.
There is a five-step evaluation process that is followed as a judge
makes the decision on your case. The facts of your case are considered in each
of these five steps:
- The first step is considering your monthly
earnings. If you are currently working in a substantial gainful activity (SGA)
earning over $1,010 monthly, then you will be denied unless the judge agrees
that your attempt at working was unsuccessful. If you are not able to perform
work of any type the judge will go on to step two.
- The second step is to classify your impairments.
The classifications are either severe or not severe. A severe impairment is anything that
prohibits basic work-related activities like standing, bending, lifting,
getting along with others, or sitting for long periods of time, etc. The ALJ
will describe why or why not your impairment is considered severe or not. It is
possible to have a claim that is based on multiple impairments. If that is the
case then some of them may be considered severe and others not severe. If your
impairment(s) are considered not severe then you will be denied your claim. You
must have at least one severe impairment for your claim to continue to the
- The third step is if you have an impairment that
meets the one of the qualifying medical conditions. If you have a condition that equals a
condition in the “blue book” of listed impairments, then you would continue on
to step four. Your own medical records may be sited as reason that your
impairment was considered to meet or not meet a qualified listing. If your
condition does not meet a listing then the ALJ will explain why it does not
meet a condition and will continue on to step number four.
- Step four of the decision considers your past
work experience, responsibilities, how long you were with your employer, and
the reason that you no longer work in that position. The opinion of the
Vocational Expert may be sited as to
whether or not the expert felt you could still do your former job or not. If
the ALJ believes that you are still capable of doing your past work, you will
be denied. If the ALJ decides that you can no longer do your previous job the
decision will go onto the final step.
- The final step is where the ALJ gives an overview of your case from your
documented symptoms, opinions of your doctors and/or medical experts,
laboratory reports or imaging results as well as the answers that you gave to
questions during your hearing concerning your condition. If the ALJ felt there
were inconsistencies in your records or testimony then it will be stated in
this section and it will also say if this affected the outcome. The ALJ will
state the kinds of work that you would be able to do or what you would not be
able to do as well as the possibility that you may be trained to do other work
based on other jobs you have had, education and your age. The judge could also
list jobs that are believed to be within your ability to perform or if there
are no jobs that you would be able to hold.