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There is a helpful article in the April Social Security Forum, which is a newsletter for NOSSCR members. On page 11, Illinois attorney Eric Schnaufer suggests having three reasons to rule out past relevant work at step four, and three reasons to rule out other work at step five of the sequential evaluation.

For each past relevant job at step four, a representative should have three reasons why the preponderance of the evidence shows that the claimant could not perform that job both as actually performed and as generally performed. …

A representative should have three overriding theories of disability at step five.

Since a representative does not know what findings an ALJ will make, having three reasons for the critical step 4 and 5 determinations will protect against any one particular reason being rejected by the ALJ.

This a theory of the case on steroids, but it is a useful technique for developing a claim and preparing for a hearing. Make sure you have more than one reason why the judge should make the appropriate findings at step 4 and step 5.

I used this approach for my last hearing, and we developed four independent reasons why past work was precluded. Each reason was supported by a medical source statement from a treating physician. The same four reasons would preclude other work at step five.

It is a good approach. Have as many reasons as possible, supported by the medical evidence, why work is precluded.


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If you are considering an application for Social Security disability benefits, or have already applied and want assistance with your claim, please contact Gordon Gates.