There are almost an infinite number of medical problems and combinations of medical problems that could potentially lead to disabling limitations of function. The bottom line question for the Social Security disability determination is this: Are there any jobs that exist in substantial numbers that you can do? If you are no longer able to do your old job and cannot find another job that will accommodate the limitations you have because of your medical problems, then there is a good chance you are disabled. “Disabled” does not mean that you cannot function at all. Rather, it means that you cannot work at a full time 8 hour a day, 40 hour per week job.
Keep in mind that even if you are not disabled from any one condition, the combination of your medical problems could be keeping you from working. If you are over 50 and have a history of unskilled work, then the rules that govern the disability determination make it easier for you to be considered disabled. In a nutshell, all we need to do is show that you are limited to no more than sedentary work. Sedentary work is defined as being able to stand or walk no more than 2 hours total out of an 8 hour work day and lift no more than 10 lbs. occasionally and nothing more than light things such as papers or files frequently. If you have a history of skilled work that can be done in a sedentary position, we also need to show why you cannot do your old skilled sedentary job.
If you are over 55, the rules make it even easier for you to be considered disabled. If you are over 55 and have a history of unskilled work, all we need to do is show that you are limited to no more than light work. Light work is defined as being able to stand or walk in combination no more than 6 hours total out of an 8 hour work day and lift no more than 20 lbs. occasionally and 10 lbs. frequently. If you have a history of skilled work that can be done in a sedentary position or at a light work level, we also need to show why you cannot do your old sedentary or light job.
Regardless of your age, there are certain combinations of limitations that could prevent you from working at an 8 hour per day, 40 hour per week job. If you are missing more than 3 days of work per month on average due to your medical problems, or you would if you tried to work, then there is a good chance you are disabled. If you experience interruptions to your concentration from chronic pain or mental health issues such that you would not be able to maintain attention to even simple tasks enough to complete them in a timely manner, then you could be considered disabled for that reason. If you are not able to attend work for a full 8 hours at any kind of job, regardless of whether or not you are sitting, standing or walking, then you could be considered disabled. If you are only able to use your arms or hands occasionally during the work day, the number of jobs available to you would be drastically reduced. If you cannot use your hands at all, then you are probably qualified for disability benefits.
No matter what your condition is or what limitations you have, it is critical that you are compliant with all treatment and recommendations your doctor provided to you. Many people we talk to are very limited in their mobility due to chronic pain issues, but their doctor has recommended that they exercise. If that is the case for you, please at least check into your local YMCA water aerobics program. If you are referred by your doctor and you cannot pay for it, they are usually able to give you discount. Judges love to see people participate in this kind of program because it shows you are doing everything you can do to help yourself. If your doctor has recommended that you quit smoking, you should do so. If your doctor has recommended that you lose weight, then go on a named diet (don’t just try to eat less) and keep a food log of everything you eat. Show this your doctor. Even a 20 lbs. weight loss shows you are moving in the right direction and putting in a good effort. When we ask your doctor if you are compliant with treatment, she needs to be able to give us an emphatic yes.
There are a number of other combinations of impairments that work. If you have questions about whether or not you might qualify for disability benefits, please give us a call. An initial consultation is free, and we would love to give you whatever advice we can.