Identifying SSA's Sequential Disability Determination Steps Using Administrative Data

by Bernard Wixon and Alexander Strand
Research and Statistics Note No. 2013-01 (released June 2013)

Text description for Chart 1.
Disability determination process for adults

Chart 1 shows the five steps of the sequential disability determination process for adults that are described in the text. The steps are shown as rectangles and the outcomes follow the arrows. Step 1 (financial eligibility) is shown at the top of the page and the outcomes at this step include claim denial or further processing. Step 2 (severe impairment) is shown next and the outcomes here are also claim denial or further processing. At step 3 (meets or equals medical listings), a claim may be allowed or have further processing. The claim may proceed directly to step 4 (capacity for past work) or have expedited processing to step 5 (capacity for any work), known as expedited vocational assessment. At both steps 4 and expedited step 5, a claim may be denied but not allowed. Finally, at step 5, a claim may be allowed or denied. Altogether, the chart shows that there are five points along the sequential determination process at which a claim can be denied, but only two points at which it can be allowed. Denial outcomes are shown in red and allowance outcomes in green.

Text description for Chart 2.
Disability determination process for children

Chart 2 shows the three steps of the sequential disability determination process for children, with step 3 divided into steps 3a and 3b. Although the determination process for children includes a medical screen and a functional assessment as a single step, we show them separately for analytical purposes. The steps are shown as rectangles and the outcomes follow the arrows. Step 1 (financial eligibility) is shown at the top of the page and the outcomes at this step include claim denial or further processing. Step 2 (severe impairment) is shown next and the outcomes here are also claim denial or further processing. At step 3a (meets or equals medical listings), a claim may be allowed or have further processing. Finally, at step 3b (functionally equals level of severity of listings), a claim may be allowed or denied. Altogether, the chart shows that there are three points along the sequential determination process at which a claim can be denied, but only two points at which it can be allowed. Denial outcomes are shown in red and allowance outcomes in green.