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The Sequential Evaluation Process: Step 1

  • Published: June 7, 2011

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Step 1: Are You Engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity?

The first step in the sequential evaluation process is determining whether you’re engaging in substantial gainful activity. To fall into this category, the work must be both “substantial” and “gainful.” It entails doing “significant physical or mental activities.”

Meaning of “substantial”

Work you do is not considered to be substantial when:

  • You do not have the capacity to perform “ordinary or simple tasks satisfactorily without more supervision or assistance than is usually given other people doing similar work”; or
  • You are engaging in work that requires “minimal duties that make little or no demands” on you and is actually of “little or no use” to either your employer or to the operation of your self-employed business.

Meaning of “gainful”

According to the Social Security Administration’s definition, “gainful” work means any kind of work done for the purposes of earning pay or profit (regardless of whether there is actual profit). Except in situations where you’re self-employed, however, the Social Security Administration will usually look only at your earnings to determine whether your work is gainful.

If you are self-employed, the gainfulness of your work will be determined by your work activity and its value to the business.  What’s important is your ability to control the timing or amount of your income. This is without regard to whether or not you are working at a loss.

Keep in mind that illegal activity may qualify as substantial gainful activity.

The Social Security Administration will allow for deductions from earnings for “impairment-related work expenses,” which include payments for medical treatment for your disability, transportation costs, vehicle modification, etc.

To find the SGA earning amount for the current year, go to https://www.ssa.gov/cola/.

If you are not engaged in substantial gainful activity, the Social Security Administration will proceed to Step 2 to evaluate your claim for disability benefits. In the next article, Ocala disability lawyer CJ Henry will describe Step 2.

If you think you qualify for Social Security disability benefits, contact Ocala disability lawyer CJ Henry today for a free initial consultation.

Continue to Step Two.

Claudeth Henry

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