The Severity Requirement
The second step of the Sequential Evaluation Process for Social Security disability benefits is the severity requirement, which evaluates whether your impairment is “severe.” A Social Security disability attorney in Augusta can help you find out whether your case is likely to meet the severity requirement.
This step is meant to stop cases where there is no medically determinable impairment or only minor impairments from getting any further in the process. But almost any impairment that results in a reduction of your residual functional capacity (what actions you are able to do considering your impairment) will satisfy the severity requirement of the Sequential Evaluation Process.
Medically determinable impairments are divided into two categories by the SSA: slight impairments that are deemed “non-severe” impairments, and all other impairments, which are therefore deemed “severe.”
The SSA needs to answer the question of whether your impairment reduces your ability to perform basic work functions, and will consider all relevant information, including subjective symptoms, to evaluate this question. If the adjudicator is unable to clearly determine how your impairment is impacting your ability to do basic work activities, then the adjudicator will move onto the next step of the Sequential Evaluation Process. If the question is close, you are likely to be given the benefit of the doubt and your case will be decided in favor of finding your impairment to be severe.
However, the SSA regulations also state that no symptom, or even a combination of symptoms, “can be the basis for a finding of disability, no matter how genuine the individual’s complaints may appear to be, unless there are medical signs and laboratory findings demonstrating the existence of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment.” In other words, if there is no “medically determinable impairment” you will be found not disabled. The bar for what constitutes a medically determinable impairment is low; as long as your doctor has sufficient information to make a legitimate diagnosis, you meet the requirement.