If you are like the majority of the people who have applied for Social Security Disability (SSDI) in Arizona, you were denied at least twice and are on your way to a hearing in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ).
There is essentially a five step process in the hearing to decipher whether the claimant is disabled under Social Security guidelines.
The first step is to determine whether the claimant is engaged in "substantial gainful activity" (SGA). What this essentially means is "is the claimant earning at least $1100 a month?" If the answer to this question is "yes", then the claimant is not disabled and that's the end of the analysis by the ALJ.
If the claimant is not engaged in SGA, the ALJ then analyzes whether the impairments are "severe." If the impairments are not severe, the claimant is denied benefits. If the impairments are severe, the ALJ will evaluate further.
If the impairments meet or equal the listings for health conditions as promulgated by the Social Security administration, the person is found disabled. If they don't meet or equal the listings there's further evaluation by the ALJ.
The next step is for the ALJ to analyze whether the claimant has "residual functional capacity" (RFC) to perform past relevant work. This essentially means is: is the claimant able to do jobs that he or she has done in the past with his or her current work restrictions? If the answer is "yes," he or she is not disabled. If the answer is "no," the ALJ will evaluate further.
The last step is for the ALJ to decipher whether the claimant is able to perform any other work with his or her limitations. If he or she is able to perform other work with his or her limitations, he or she is denied disability benefits. If he or she is not able to perform other work with his or her limitations, he or she is found disabled.
The Social Security system here in Arizona is difficult to navigate. A lot of the ALJs in Arizona have very low approval rates. You will be better served by seeking representation from a family firm that has practiced in the area of Social Security for over 20 years. At Fendon Law Firm, we treat our clients like family because we are family. We accept cases throughout Arizona and have offices in Phoenix, Tucson, Prescott, and Flagstaff. We offer free consultations on Social Security and Worker's Compensation cases.