Help!  Social Security Thinks I Can Perform Sedentary Work

Help!  Social Security Thinks I Can Perform Sedentary Work

You applied for Social Security benefits. 

You receive a denial letter and in it, it says that you can perform sedentary work.

What does this mean?  What can you do?

What is Sedentary Work?

When Social Security reviews your case, they look at the medical evidence that has been submitted.  They use the “grid”, a system developed by SSA to decide if a person is able to work based on the highest level of their job.  And they determine if you can perform sedentary work, light work, or medium work.

If you are determined to be able to do sedentary work, this means you are able to perform a sit-down job.  A job that would require you to lift up to 10 lbs., occasionally carry objects such as files and be able to walk or stand for up to two hours at a time.

This article will give you several examples of sedentary work, and how the SSA will view your capacity to do sedentary work.

You can review the “Grid” system that SSA uses, here.

Medical consultants at SSA assign you a residual functional capacity (RFC) level on work.  They use this to see if you are able to do work by using the grid (above). The grid determines your level of disability based on age, education, RFC level, previous work experience, and transferability of skills.

Based on what the grid says, you may be granted or denied benefits.

For example, if you are 50 and are deemed able to do sedentary work and have a college degree, then you will not qualify for disability benefits because the grid determines you are still employable, even in a reduced state.  You can appeal this!

Appeal a Denial For Disability!

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What can I do?

If you truly are unable to perform sedentary work, then you are going to need to prove it.  If you do not already have a disability lawyer, now would be a good time to get one.  A lawyer can help you gather the information needed in order to prove that you can not even do sedentary work.

Your lawyer will use your medical records, doctor’s opinions, your testimony and anything else they will show why you can’t do various sedentary jobs. The SSA can only use the evidence and symptoms indicated in your medical records so it is important for you to have your doctor note any and all symptoms you may be experiencing.

You will need to prove that you cannot:

  • Lift up to 10 pounds
  • Stand or walk for more than 2 hours a day
  • Walk without the use of medical hand-held devices (cane, walker, etc.)
  • Sit for 6 hours out of an 8-hour work-day

Other things that can prove that you can only do less than sedentary work are:

  • Needing to alternate sitting and standing through the day
  • Needing to rest or lie down
  • Inability to stoop or bend
  • Reduced ability in use of hands or fingers
  • Taking frequent sick days
  • Unable to balance on smooth surfaces
  • Visual limitations
  • Unable to work in noisy environments
  • Unable to follow short, simple instructions
  • Inappropriate interaction with supervisors and co-workers
  • Not able to maintain hygiene
  • Cannot handle work stress
  • Off task for more than 15% of the work day

Unfortunately, even citing many of these will not stop the SSA from finding some job (even random) that you will be able to perform.

The SSA uses the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) to determine what types of jobs you may qualify for.  You might notice…a large portion of these jobs are non-existent jobs such as telegraph-service rater, microfilm processor, and telephone quotation clerk.

It is important that you have you a good attorney that can help you contest the jobs if they are one of those that are not actual jobs anymore, or if there are aspects of your impairment that you may not realize will become notable during your appeal.

Four Examples of Sedentary Work And Why They May Not Apply to You

Four Examples of Sedentary Work And Why They May Not Apply to You

In order to win your appeal for Social Security disability, you must prove that your limitations from injury or illness prevent you from not only doing your recent job but any job that is also less demanding but within your ability to do. 

This is difficult, especially for younger people.  Social Security believes that younger claimants can adjust to sit down jobs even if they have an impairment. 

However, if you can prove that you can do less than sedentary work, you will have a great shot at winning your appeal for Social Security disability. 

Sedentary Work As an Alternative to Social Security Disability

Generally speaking, the following are going to be strong indicators that you can perform sedentary work:

  • You can lift more than ten pounds
  • You can stand or walk for more than a total of 2 hours combined
  • You can sit for 6 hours out of an 8 hour work day

If you can do a minimum of these three tasks on a daily basis, the Social Security Administration is going to be seeking to understand why you are unable to work, even at a reduced rate.  You should start making note of your specific limitations and how they might help you counter these questions.

Limitations That Might Prevent you to Perform Sedentary Work

Physical exertional limitations

  • Inability to do any of the above mentioned skills
  • Need the use of medical devices to help walk
  • Need to have leg elevated
  • Unable to use an arm due to amputation above the elbow

Non-exertional limitations

  • Needing to alternate sitting and standing
  • Need to rest or lie down
  • Cannot stoop or bend
  • Reduced ability to use hands and fingers
  • Need to take frequent sick days
  • Cannot balance (even on smooth surfaces)
  • Visual limitation
  • Cannot work in noise

Cognitive or Behavioral Health limitations that can affect the ability to do Sedentary work

  • Inability to focus and concentrate due to a prescribed pain medication
  • Difficulty performing simple, routine, unskilled tasks
  • Interference with completing tasks on time
  • Cannot get along with others or cannot respond appropriately to authority

In your disability appeal, the SSA will consult with a vocational expert (VE).  A vocational expert knows about job availability and the skills need to perform those jobs.  The VE will most likely be able to find jobs that you can still do, regardless of your condition; however, a seasoned and effective Social Security Disability Attorney will be able to push back and give you a stronger chance for overcoming the appeal than if you decide to do it yourself.

Four Examples of Sedentary Work

Example 1:

You are a 36-year-old who was a machinist for the past fifteen years.  You were in a car accident that caused a severe back injury, and you are unable to perform your job.  You can no longer lift more than 10 pounds.  When you applied for Social Security, you were denied because they said that you could perform sedentary work.  The vocational expert says that you can work as an administrative assistant.  However, this does not apply to you because you need to change sitting and standing positions every hour or you are in excruciating pain. 

Example 2:

You are a 52-year-old who was a teacher for the past 30 years.  You fell down the stairs and broke your leg in multiple places.  You had to have surgery and now need to take pain medication on a regular basis to function.  You can no longer stand long enough to teach, so you are unable to work anymore.  When you applied to Social Security for disability, you were denied due to your ability to perform sedentary work.  Your pain medications, however, cause you to be unable to focus or concentrate and complete a task in a timely manner. 

Example 3:

You are a 62-year-old woodworker.  You have been building cabinets since you were in your early twenties.  You have no formal education, only a high school diploma. You broke your back in an ATV accident when you were in your forties.  This caused lymphatic damage which turned into lymphodema causing your legs to swell and have poor circulation.  If you bump your leg, it breaks open easily and gets infected, so you can no longer work around wood and tools that can cause injury.  You also have a very difficult standing and lifting.  You applied for Social Security disability but were denied.  You were deemed able to perform sedentary work.  However, the medication that you are taking causes you to become dizzy and at times almost pass out.  You cannot bend without almost falling because you cannot balance. 

Example 4:

You are a 45-year-old, and you were a concrete worker. You hurt your back and can’t work anymore. You help out your wife at your home business by filing documents, answering calls, and responding to emails. You apply for Social Security and get denied.  Even though you do not get paid, Social Security determines that if you were getting paid you would make SGA and you are capable of performing sedentary work.  However, you use a script when answering the phone because your head is fuzzy from medications. You also only work about two hours during the day because you need to lie down and take a break because your back hurts so much.  

In all four examples, you were told that you were able to perform sedentary work, but again in all four examples, sedentary work did not necessarily apply to you.  In these cases, and similar situations, you want to contact a disability attorney asap to help you prove that you are unable to perform sedentary work.

Work With a Social Security Attorney Today

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