Every claim for Social Security disability benefits is evaluated according to a five-step sequential evaluation process. Here, I will provide a brief overview of Step 3.
At Step 3 of the sequential evaluation process, the decision-maker considers whether you have a Listings impairment. The Social Security Listing of Impairments (the “Listings”) establishes criteria for more than 100 physical and mental conditions that Social Security deems so severe as to be disabling as a matter of law. If the medical evidence in your case demonstrates that your impairment meets the criteria for a Listings impairment, then you are disabled and you will be awarded benefits.
If your impairment does not meet the requirements of a Listings impairment, you still may be awarded benefits if your impairment “medically equals” a Listings impairment. You may be able to establish medical equivalency if:
(1) Even though you lack one of the essential findings stated in the Listings for your particular impairment, you have evidence of other findings;
(2) You have all the essential findings of a Listings impairment, but one (or more) of those findings is not severe enough, and you have other findings;
(3) Your condition does not appear in the Listings, but it is just as severe as a similar impairment that does appear in the Listings; or
(4) You have several impairments that, standing alone, do not meet the Listings requirements, but when considered as a whole, do equal a Listings impairment.
In addition, the decision-maker may be able to evaluate how the medical findings in your case, your symptoms and your functional limitations compare with those of another a claimant whose impairment meets a particular Listing. In any event, the decision-maker must receive medical opinion evidence from an expert retained by the Social Security Administration before making a “medically equals” finding.
Determining whether you have a Listings impairment is a complicated matter. A Detroit disability lawyer can help your case by making sure the Social Security Administration has complete, current and accurate medical information regarding your condition.