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.

5 Tips For a New SSI & SSDI Social Security Claim

5 Tips For a New SSI & SSDI Social Security Claim


If you’re filing an SSI or SSDI claim, you want to do your best to avoid ending up in an appeal process that could delay your benefits by up to 2 years! 

Here are five tips to help you get ahead of the curve and give you a better chance of successfully getting your claim approved the first time you apply for SSI or SSDI benefits. 


Get All Your Medical Records Together and Copied

Your medical records are primary sources of evidence in your Social Security Claim.  And if you end up in appeal, these records will be some of the items your social security attorney will be relying on to make your case as strong as possible.  For this reason, one of the very best things you can do up-front in in your social security claim is to both request whatever records you are able to, and to make copies.

Even better than this is to either obtain a digital copy, by request – or take your records to an office supply store and ask that they create .PDF copies for you.  In this manner you can print off as many as you need, if ever asked!


Talk To Your Doctor About Your Social Security Claim

Getting your symptoms into your medical record can truly help your Social Security claim.  The easiest and best way to do this is to talk to your doctor openly and honestly about any of your challenges.  For instance, you may be unable to work because of hand injuries, however if you leave it at just that – a lot of speculation could arise about your ability to perform other tasks.  If though, you have hand injuries and significant associated pain, the total impact of your disability changes.

This means, don’t clam-up in discussing all the symptoms and physical/mental health barriers you’re experiencing when your doctor asks how you’re doing.  Ask them to make a note of your response too, if you feel like you’re not being heard.  You don’t want someone to say at a later date that you created a set of symptoms when in reality you’ve been experiencing them the whole time.


Be Honest About Your Symptoms

After the last point, this one bears discussion.  It’s tremendously important that you get your symptoms noted in your medical records.  However, you have to make sure you’re being completely honest about them too.  Don’t overstate your symptoms, the last thing you want to pop-up in your claim is a fraudulent statement about your personal barriers.  On that note though, don’t understate your symptoms.  This is a classic situation that hinders many excellent claims.  If someone asks how you’re doing, answer truthfully and fully.  If you’re having a bad day, say so.  If your stomach is upset say so.  If you didn’t’ get any sleep, say so.  And so on.

It’s not always easy to be honest with someone about physical or mental heath barriers.  But with your doctor, employer, and lawyer, you should lay it all out.   Especially with a Social Security claim in discussion.


Seek A Statement From Your Doctor

A doctor’s statement will have an very significant impact on your claim.  Or rather, it could have a significant impact if they frame it in the right context.

In reality a doctor, or several doctors will already be giving input on the severity of your disabling conditions.  And by their very nature, doctors will often shy away from judging how it will impact your life, in lieu of just describing the limitations imposed.  If you are able to discuss it with your doctor, having them draft a statement that covers both what is wrong and exactly how it impacts your ability to work, will be very helpful.

To understand why, you have to get into the mind of a Social Security decision maker for a minute.  They are tasked with understanding your claim, looking at the evidence, and trying to understand how the two are related – all within a small amount of time.  Without an expert’s opinion, they have to formulate an opinion based on what they have.  However, if you do have an expert’s opinion, your doctor, it eliminates the subjective basis of the adjudicator’s determination.  For them to counter the doctor’s opinion they need another doctor’s opinion or a more significant understanding of the facts of your claim.  Make their job easy and provide a medical opinion in your favor up-front.


Record and Provide Detailed Records of Your Work History, If You Have One

The basis for this tip is different depending on whether you’re filing for an SSI claim or an SSDI claim.  However, the fundamental value is the same.

If you’re filing for SSI because of a disability, you want to show any work history you may have had, even if it’s 15 years ago.  If you were able to work successfully prior to your condition, then you can demonstrate there’s a difference between the you that is claiming, and the you that was able to work successfully in the past.  With the difference being your disabling condition, presumably.

Likewise, if you’re filing for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, detailing your recent work history will demonstrate exactly how your disabling condition has been affecting your ability to maintain employment.  Or how it stops you from being able to do what you’ve been doing.

It’s tempting to try to discount employment or to play it down, but if viewed in the right manner, a full and detailed employment history often plays favorably into a claim for SSI or SSDI benefits.


If you want to talk more about this, or any of these other tips, you should contact a Social Security disability attorney for a free consultation.



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