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The SSA Says I Can Do Sedentary Work: Now What?

A Woman With Sedentary Work
When you are ill, performing seemingly simple tasks such as sitting or handling paperwork can be difficult. However, the Social Security Administration (SSA) can deny your claim if they determine that you are not adequately disabled and you can at least perform sedentary work.

Read on to learn more about how the SSA decides that a claimant can perform sedentary work and may, therefore, not qualify for disability benefits.

Residual Functional Capacity

Generally, the SSA aims to provide disability benefits to individuals who are too disabled to work. The agency performs a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) assessment for each claimant to determine the types of activities the person can still perform in spite of an injury or illness.

The assessment evaluates your physical and mental capacity to perform your previous job or any other job available in the labor market.

Physical Evaluation

Following a physical assessment, the SSA will assign you an exertion level based on the type of tasks you can perform relative to your injury or disability.

Exertion levels include sedentary, light, medium, or heavy work. The SSA will also consider other factors such as your vocational skills and age. 

In addition to evaluating your exertion capabilities, the SSA will also assess any non-exertion issues that may hinder you from performing any work. Examples of such issues include not being able to use your fingers properly, hear, speak, see, or bend.

Mental Evaluation

If your claim states that you have a mental or emotional illness, then the SSA will conduct a mental evaluation. This evaluation will establish whether your mental condition prevents you from performing any kind of work, including your past job and any other available jobs you may be qualified to undertake.

The agency may consider several factors including your ability to make simple judgments, recall events, understand instructions, focus on a task for a substantial period, and engage in socially acceptable behavior.

The SSA will primarily base their decision based on your medical records and any personal statements you provide as part of the RFC assessment. If your records do not show that you are physically and/or mentally impaired to perform any work, the agency may determine that you can at least perform very light duty work i.e. sedentary work.

Sedentary Work

According to the SSA, sedentary work is the lowest exertion level and entails performing very light duty work.

Based on the physical RFC assessment, the SSA may determine that you can do sedentary work if you meet the following criteria:
  • You can lift at least 10 pounds at any given time
  • You can carry items such as files and small equipment at least a third of the time
  • You can walk and stand for not more than 2 hours in an 8-hour work shift
  • You can remain in a seated position for a maximum of 6 hours in an 8-hour work shift where the job does not require significant stooping
Unless you are severely disabled, proving that you cannot perform sedentary work can be difficult - especially if you are below age 55. Luckily, finding a sedentary position may not be too difficult in the current job market. While you may have to adjust to this new form of work, you may be happier and in less pain, while working a sedentary job.

If the SSA has denied your claim but you believe you are too ill to do even sedentary work, then there is still hope - you can appeal the decision. However, you will require substantial evidence from your physician and other expert witnesses to prove that you are too ill to perform any of the criteria required for sedentary work.

The experienced attorneys at Cole Fisher Cole & O'Keefe can help you with your case and represent you throughout the appeals process. Call us today to discuss your options with one of our attorneys. 
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