Do you have a severe mental or physical impairment (or a combination of impairments) which, you believe, keeps you from working?
Good, just like everyone else filing for Social Security disability, you only know about 1/3rd of what it takes to be found disabled under the rules established by the Social Security Administration.
I was speaking to a client the other day, and we had to have this talk. She believed that because she could no longer do the work she did in the past, she should receive Social Security disability benefits.
Sadly, I wished it always worked this way.
This gets very complicated, but let's try and make it as simple as possible.
First, understand that there are five different exertion levels for different jobs. They are as follows: (1) sedentary, (2) light, (3) medium, (4) heavy, and (5) very heavy. Everyone of these types of exertion levels have their own specific definition. All work performed fits within one of these categories. For the sake of this blog, just understand what sedentary work is: (1) you can sit at a desk for 6 out of 8 hours per day, (2) stand or walk up to 2 hours per day, and (3) lift no more than 10 pounds.
Next, you must also understand that there are categories of workers by age: (1) a younger aged individual -those under the age of 50, (2) a person closely approaching advanced age -those age 50 to 54, (3) an advanced age person -those aged 55 to 60, and (4) a person closely approaching retirement age -those 61 years-old and older.
Now that you understand there are classifications of work based on exertion levels and classifications of workers based on age, we can help you understand how other conditions affect your disability case besides just your impairments.
Let's break this down even further, and just talk about any worker below the age of 50, and those who are aged 50 and above:
1. The typical worker below the age of 50.
Again, this person is going to be a younger aged individual, we know that much. Further, because Social Security has established rules called the Medical-Vocational Guidelines, any person under the age of 50 will likely have to show he or she is unable to perform even sedentary work. Remember, I told you all work is classified into exertion levels. Well, because of the "Rules" if a person under the age of 50 can perform sedentary work, then there are enough jobs within the national economy that are considered unskilled to be available in significant numbers for such a person to perform sedentary work. These unskilled jobs require less than 30 days to learn, and if a person can sit down for 6 out of 8 hours per day and stand or walk for 2 hours (with scheduled breaks), then this younger aged person will be considered not disabled. In short, if you are one of these persons needing Social Security disability benefits, then the burden is going to be on you to show that you are unable to perform even sedentary work.
2. For those over the age of 50.
The good news is that for a person closely approaching advanced age or one who is advanced age, those "Rules" spelled out under the Medical-Vocational Guidelines, are more forgiving. If a person, who fits within this category, can even perform sedentary and sometimes light work, then he or she may be found disabled. So, yes, even though a person within this category can do this type of work, the "Rules" are still enough in his or her favor for a finding of disabled.
But, this is not telling the entire story. There are other factors that come into play as well. Namely, it will be the person's education and work skills he or she has acquired over the last fifteen years.
For those with only a high school education, the "Rules" favor him or her even more. If a person never graduated from high school, then his or her limited education background continues to favor a finding of disabled even more.
For those that never acquired transitional work skills, the chances of success become even better. Such skills are things such as computer skills, management skills, bookkeeping, scheduling, etc. If a person has not acquired skills such as these over the last 15 years from past jobs, then a finding of disabled is likely.
To help you better understand, let's take two scenarios:
Judy is 55 years-old. She has worked as a line cook for the last 15 years and only finished the 10th grade. She has Congestive Heart Failure, which likely means she could only perform sedentary work. Since she was a line cook, this was at a medium exertion level, and likely there are no transferable work skills to transfer to sedentary work. In essence, she is probably going to be found disabled as long as she has sufficient medical records to back up her allegations.
Bob is 54 years-old. He has some college and worked in shipping and receiving for the last 15 years. He used a computer at his old job and also has scheduling skills, etc. First, Bob is closely approaching advanced age. He has at least a high school education, but not college, because he only completed two years. Bob does have transferable work skills. Because he has acquired such skills, then under light or even sedentary work, he would be found not disabled. So, in Bob's case, we're going to have to treat Bob's case like he was a younger aged individual or the Medical-Vocational Guidelines will direct a verdict of not disabled. In this case, since Bob does have transferable work skills, we would need to show that Bob could not even perform sedentary work. So, if Bob have three bulging discs in his back and carpal tunnel in both hands, then we could make the argument that Bob was not capable of even sitting at an unskilled job for 6 out of 8 hours per day and he also has severe hand impairments which limits his ability to use them all day every day.
Sadly, there's more to all this than the above. This is meant to only give you a guideline in determining if your case is strong enough to be found disabled. For the lion's share of claimants filing for Social Security disability, you are going to need to show you cannot perform even sedentary work. The minority of claimants fall within the Medical-Vocational guidelines with a favorable decision. This is just one of the reasons why so many people are denied over and over again when they are under the age of 50.
Need help with your Social Security disability case? We help claimants throughout Texas and California. If you'd like to talk, always feel free to call us at: (888) 780-9125.