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The Disability Judge Ruled that One of Your Medical Impairments is “Non-Severe.” What Does this Mean and Why is it Important?

Recently I have noticed a trend at many of cases I am trying on behalf of applicants for Social Security disability. After listening to testimony, but before posting questions to the Vocational Expert, the judge will say something like this: “counselor, I am going to find that the [allegations of depression; breathing problems and COPD; knee damage and reduced range of motion in the left lower extremity; etc.] are non-severe impairments and thus will not be included in questions I ask to the vocational expert. Do you have any objections to this?”

What does this mean to you if you are the claimant appearing at a hearing like this?

The term “non-severe impairment” is a term of art in the Social Security world. When judges evaluate claims, or, more accurately, elements of claims, they are required by law to analyze your case using something called the “five step sequential evaluation process.” Continue reading →