Social Security separates jobs into groups based on physical requirements: sedentary, light, medium, and heavy. For many individuals, the outcome of a case depends on the number of sedentary jobs available.
This is often an issue in back injury cases where Light work is eliminated, but sedentary jobs are still a possibility. If there are enough of them. If a job can be put in the Light category, it may be eliminated based on physical limitations.
So, here is the question: can a sit down job requiring no more than lifting 10 pounds (typically suggesting Sedentary work) ever be a Light job? Continue reading Can sit down jobs be LIGHT work?
If you are 50 years old or older, Social Security makes it easier to prove your disability case. Individuals between 18 and 49 meet a tougher standard discussed in this article.
Starting at age 50, and then again at age 55 and 60, Social Security lowers the requirements for proving disability. The rationale is that the older you are, the harder it is to work in a job that you have never done before.
- After age 50, Social Security can approve you for disability benefits even though you are able to do some type of work.
- The older you are, the more physically demanding the work can be and still allow you qualify for disability benefits.
However, this is not a free pass! Do not leave this article before you read the “gotchas” at the bottom. Continue reading Secrets to winning Social Security disability at age 50 (or above)
Now that I know the critical dates and the medical history I review the work history. Social Security reviews cases using the 5 step sequential evaluation process. At step 4, if you are still able to do any of the jobs you performed in the last 15 years before you became disabled, you can be denied benefits. There are a couple more wrinkles to this, such as the job has to be a substantial gainful activity, but the general idea is that if you can still do a job your over the last 15 years, you can be denied.
I often start with the “Disability History – Work Report” and the “Work Background Report.” These are forms you filled out for Social Security describing the type of work you did.
There may be jobs here that you have forgotten about and these documents may provide the beginning and ending dates for the various jobs.
However, you also have to check the earnings reports:
These provide your earnings reported by your employers and are another way to make sure you have not forgotten about a job. There have also been several instances where my clients and I found that someone in another state was using their Social Security number to work because those earnings were also showing up in these reports. Going over each employer is a way of making sure that you have not forgotten any work. This goes a long way to avoiding any surprises at your hearing.
The last report also describes any unemployment benefits you received. Read the linked article for more information about how unemployment can affect your case.
I have written about how Social Security defines disability, work, and a substantial gainful activity.
But, how does Social Security really evaluate a case?
Social Security reviews cases using the five-step sequential evaluation process to decide is a person is disabled. Here are the 5 questions that make up the sequential evaluation process:
- Does your impairment keep you from being able to perform a substantial gainful activity (SGA), generally full-time, competitive, work?
- Is your impairment severe? AND, is your impairment expected to remain severe for at least 12 months?
- Does your impairment “meet or equal” one of Social Security’s “Listing of Impairments?” A listing of medical conditions, acceptable medical evidence, and the severity necessary for an impairment to be considered disabling. There are separate listings for adults and for children.
- Does your impairment prevents you from being able to perform any job you performed over the last 15 years which was also a substantial gainful activity?
- Does your impairment prevent you from being able to perform any other type of work which exists in substantial numbers of the national economy?
Let’s take these one at a time: Continue reading How Social Security reviews cases: the 5 step sequential evaluation process
A lot of people ask me how Social Security decided if they are disabled.
I can’t do the work I have done for 35 years. Am I disabled?
I stopped working to take care of a family member, but now I am sick. Am I disabled?
I got hurt at work, then they fired me. I keep applying for jobs, but there just isn’t much work around here. Am I disabled?
The doctor tells me I will probably need serious surgery later on. Am I disabled?
I will need to be on medication for the rest of my life. Am I disabled?
Social Security focuses on ability to work to test for disability.
Under the Social Security system, in order to be disabled you have to have a physical or psychological impairment that is expected to keep you from being able to engage in a “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) – typically some type of full-time work, for 12 months or longer. Or, simply put: do you have a condition that keeps you from being able to work? Continue reading Am I disabled? Should I apply for Social Security benefits?
Under Social Security regulations, disability is the inability to engage in a “substantial gainful activity.” This means that to win a Social Security disability case, you have to show that your impairments prevent you from being able to work.
More specifically, you have to show that you are unable to perform the duties of any work you have performed over the past 15 years AND that you are unable to perform the duties of any other work that exists in substantial numbers in the national economy. Note: these are steps 4 and 5 of the sequential evaluation process.
The general rule is that if you can still perform the duties of a job, you are not disabled. Note: this is a very simplified definition and there are a number of significant exceptions including whether the job is a substantial gainful activity, the effects of your age, etc. Right now though, I want you to understand the main issue in Social Security disability cases.
What DOESN’T Social Security consider when looking at your ability to work?
- Social Security does not consider whether the kinds of jobs you can perform are available in your area.
- Social Security does not consider if employers are hiring.
- Social Security does not consider if you can get hired.
Phew! That’s a tough standard!