At step 2 in its sequential decision process, the SSA determines whether an applicant’s medical condition is “severe.” First, unless an impairment is expected to result in death, it must have lasted or must be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months. This time qualification is called the the “duration requirement.”
In addition to the duration requirement, an impairment or combination of impairments is considered “severe” if it significantly limits an individual’s ability to perform basic work activities. An impairment that has no more than a minimal effect on an individual’s ability to work is considered “not severe.” If a claimant does not have a severe impairment or combination of impairments, the SSA will find that you are not disabled. If a claimant can establish a severe impairment, the SSA;s analysis continues to step 3 of the decision process.
Sometimes, SSA will cite the duration requirement to deny an initial application for benefits even though a claimant has a medical condition that clearly limits any work. If your return to work within 12 months seems unlikely, you should continue to appeal the SSA denial decisions. When an appeal is heard, you likely will have new medical evidence to support your claim because your treatment will have continued for the serious condition. If your appeal is scheduled for a future hearing, any duration objection usually will be cured by the time of the hearing.