Understanding Levels of Exertion for Social Security Disability

September 27, 2019

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has developed definitions for not only just about every job within our national economy, but has also devised a way in which to determine at what physical exertion level each job will require. Every job is determined to be either: sedentary, light, medium, heavy, or very heavy.

 

Again, every job will fit into one of these categories.

 

Now, why is it so important to understand these exertion levels?

 

For starters, SSA is looking to see if a person claiming he or she is disabled is capable of still doing some kind of work. For example, if a person is claiming she is unable to stand or walk for any appreciable amount of time, then jobs at the sedentary occupation level may still be available for the claimant to perform.

 

Second, depending upon a person's age and past work experience, he or she may be determined to be disabled just by the rules established by SSA. For example, if a person is 55 years-old and he or she is only able to perform at the sedentary level, then SSA may determine that he or she is disabled. While at the same time, a person with the same past work experience and only 35 years-old, would be determined to be not disabled. Why is this so? -Because, SSA recognizes that as each of us age, we become less desirable to employers. It becomes harder to convince someone to hire us because of a number of factors. The most common of these are the fact that older employees demand more in compensation, they miss more work due to illness, they tend not to keep up with changes in technology, and they are harder to retrain. 

 

After a person's exertion level is determined, then past work over the last fifteen years is examined as well. If a person is determined to be able to return to some job he or she performed within the last fifteen years, then the case will be denied. If a person is determined not to be able to return to past work, then a final decision is made as to whether that person can transition to some other kind of work within the national economy.

 

So, who makes the decision on at what exertion level can a person perform, even despite his or her limitations? The Social Security Administration, that's who. A person's physician cannot make this decision. In fact, SSA states explicitly that such a decision is reserved solely for the Commissioner of Social Security. Employees within the agency, acting on behalf of the Commissioner, make the decision to determine whether a person qualifies for disability benefits. This also explains why it is never helpful for a person's physician to issue a statement as to whether a person can work, but rather detail his or her impairments so the Commissioner can determine eligibility for benefits.

 

Seems confusing, isn't it? Absolutely. However, these are the rules we must all abide by. This is why it is so important for a person to have good medical evidence to help determine at what exertion level he or she can possibly work. For claimants under the age of 50 and alleging physical impairments, there must be a determination that he or she cannot even perform at the sedentary occupational level. For claimants over the age of 50, as explained above, it is important to know whether a person can perform at the sedentary level. For those over the age of 55, even if a person can perform at the light or sedentary level, if there are no transferable work-skills, then there is a good chance of being found disabled, as long as he or she cannot return to past work.

 

We help claimants throughout the United States fighting for their Social Security disability benefits. Always feel free to contact us at: (888) 780-9125.

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