Step 3: Know Your Listings

Running a profitable advocacy business series:Knowing how Social Security evaluates medical conditions and the order in which the sequential evaluation process is applied, is an essential skill for a disability advocate. Understanding the “listings” at Step 3 is the focus of this article. Every advocate should be familiarize herself with the 5-step sequential process for determining disability eligibility.

The 5-Step Sequential Evaluation Process

  1. Is the individual engaging in SGA?
  2. Does the individual have a “severe” impairment
  3. Does the individual meet a “Listing”
  4. Can the individual perform “Past relevant work”
  5. Can the individual perform “Other work”
In this article, we are going to focus on step 3 and whether or not an individual “meets at listing”. The adult “listings” can be found on the Social Security website at https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/AdultListings.htm. Children have a separate set of listings which can be found at https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/ChildhoodListings.htm

Why the Listings Matter

Social Security lists conditions based on body system. The listings indicate what tests, evidence, and criteria are necessary to “prove” that a person is disabled. If a person meets a listing, they are assumed to have the severity necessary to be found “disabled”. Therefore, regardless of the claimants age, education, past work experience, current RFC, etc. the client can be found disabled if they meet a listing. This is a shortcut to getting clients approved that may not be obviously disabled.

Practical Advice

When interviewing a potential client, make sure to ask about all of their conditions because some conditions may be a compassionate allowance or have a listing. The listing can help guide you as to what the evidence and severity requirements may be for a client to be found “disabled” if the “meet” the listing. Some conditions may allow a person to be found disabled by virtue of having the following conditions https://www.ssa.gov/compassionateallowances/conditions.htm. These set of conditions are labeled as “CAL” or compassionate allowance cases. In order to run a profitable advocacy business and to give proper advice to clients, you need to be able to accurately screen and educate clients on the merits of their case. If a client thinks they have a “severe” back problem but don’t meet a listing, you’ll need to explain to them why they should return to work or look for a different less strenuous job because the back problem isn’t severe enough, by Social Security standards, to meet a listing. This is especially important to applicants under 50 who do not benefit from the GRIDS. Doing a proper analysis and making eligibility determinations are essential to running and maintaining a profitable advocacy business. This article will be the first of many to come in this series. About the Author James E. Allen is an EDPNA and CEO of Southeastern Disability

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