The Fourth and Fifth Steps of the Five-Step Sequential Disability Determination Process: Part 3

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Attorney licensed in Indiana
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At the fourth of the five-step sequential disability determination, the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") relies on VE testimony on a limited basis; at the fifth step, however, the SSA relies heavily on testimony from the VE who forms his or her opinion after reviewing the disability claimant's records and data in the DOT. This testimony is crucial because neither the ALJ nor the claimant possess the ability to analyze the exertion or skill required by particular employment positions, because the categories in the DOT are organized in an exceedingly technical fashion.  Thus, VE testimony serves as the foundational building block of the SSA disability determination process, because, without it, a complete, accurate, and reasonable decision would not be possible.
During the fourth of the five-step sequential disability determination process, the VE takes the claimant's assigned RFC for work and matches it against the job data in the DOT to determine if the claimant can competitively hold a job that he or she held within the past fifteen years.  For the first time in the sequential process, the claimant's RFC for work is measured according to actual work previously performed. This is also the first time when the full public policy underlying the disability program is tested: given the client's RFC for work, can she or he actually engage in competitive work? If it is determined that the claimant is able to perform past relevant work, then the process stops there and the claimant is found not disabled. If the claimant reaches the fifth step, the burden shifts to the SSA to demonstrate that reference to the Medical-Vocational Guidelines (the "Grids") dictates that either  the claimant is able to perform other substantial gainful employment  or that a significant number of jobs that the claimant is able to perform is available in the national economy.  Fort Wayne Indiana Attorney.



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