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.

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If Your SSI Was Denied Will Your SSDI be Denied Too?

SSI Vs SSDI if SSI was Denied

SSI and SSDI are both programs for supporting people who have disabilities that stop them from being able to work. 

However, the program that works best for you will be dependent upon a couple of different factors. 

If we break this down a little further, we can fully address the main question: 

If your SSI was denied will your SSDI be denied too?  

SSI Vs SSDI

We broke down the differences between SSI & SSDI in a previous article titled: Is Social Security the Same As Disability?

Here’s an excerpt that will help frame the answer to the question above:

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a program through the Social Security Administration (SSA) designed to provide a monetary benefit to Americans who are older than 65, blind, or disabled.  SSI is needs-based, meaning that the beneficiaries must be below a certain asset threshold.  And they must have limited income, and/or income earning potential.

SSI is often paired with Medicaid, administered by individual states.  Recipients of SSI often also qualify for food stamps.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is similar to an insurance program you might buy into for the contingency that you might become unable to work due to an injury in the future.  In actual fact, it is essentially just that – an insurance program.  Though, it’s not really opt-in if you’re employed; you pay (or paid) into it through payroll taxes.

The payout for SSDI is typically higher than SSI, but it requires that you have a relatively recent work history, to base the amount of your benefits on.  Beneficiaries become eligible for Medicare after two years of being on SSDI.

Infographic: SSI Vs SSDI

Are You Eligible for SSDI?

The first question to help you understand whether or not your claim for SSDI is likely to be denied (assuming your application for SSI was denied) is, do you meet the eligibility requirements for SSDI?

We’re keeping it simple here, but here are the two basic qualification criteria for SSDI

Have a work history of jobs covered by Social Security (another great article on who is and is not included here as well)

Have a medical condition acknowledged by Social Security as a disability

Notice that none of these requirements are related to your previous income?  Alternatively, to your assets?  Unlike SSI, SSDI is not a means-tested/related benefit.

If you were denied SSI due to an asset issue (too much $ or property), you would not be denied from SSDI for that same reason.  However, you might be denied for other reasons, including not meeting the criteria listed above.

Is There a Reason Why Your SSI Was Denied?

In addition to assessing your basic eligibility criteria for SSDI, you might want to determine why you were denied for SSI in the first place.

If it is a lack of basic eligibility, that is pretty straightforward.  We covered eligibility for SSDI above, and because there are a lot of “if/else” caveats to SSI eligibility, we will link to the full eligibility criteria for SSI, here, so that you can review them in-depth.

If your reason for being denied SSI is not due to eligibility deficiencies, then we should look elsewhere to assess why you were denied.  Moreover, why you would be looking to SSDI as an alternative to SSI.

It is possible, for instance, that you should have filed for SSDI the whole time and only filed for SSI because of a knowledge gap of the differences between the two programs.  This gaffe does happen, and it is easy to see why! SSI & SSDI have a similar name, similar function, and provide support for similar groups of people.

However, bear in mind you may have been completely correct in filing for SSI in the first place, and were denied for other reasons.

Should you Re-File for SSI? 

Having a better understanding of why your SSI was denied will help you to get perspective on whether you should seek SSDI, re-file for SSI, or file an appeal on SSI.

In reality, if continuing to pursue SSI is the right decision for you, you should file an appeal vs. refile.  Unless, of course, you have missed your deadline to file your appeal.

Lastly, while you are assessing your options, you should re-consider all potential benefits you might be able to obtain.

Consulting with a local advocate or attorney is a good step in the right direction.  They will be able to advise you on likely reasons why your original SSI claim was denied, what to do now, and other benefits you may find value in seeking.