Building a Social Security disability case for a claimant under 50

To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, most claimants under age 50 will need to show they cannot do a wide range of sedentary work.

Sedentary work is defined as work involving lifting no more than 10 pounds at a time and occasionally lifting or carrying articles like docket files, ledgers and small tools. Sedentary jobs may require occasional walking and standing. Most unskilled sedentary jobs require good use of the hands and fingers for repetitive hand-finger actions. Periods of standing or walking should generally total no more than about 2 hours of an 8-hour workday, and sitting should generally total approximately 6 hours of an 8-hour workday.

To build a strong Social Security disability case, I will look for functional limitations that whittle away the range of sedentary work that you are capable of doing to arrive at the point where jobs you can do don’t exist in significant numbers.

We will explore the following possibilities with you.

Do you have manipulative limitations?

Most unskilled sedentary jobs require good use of both hands and the fingers; i.e., bilateral manual dexterity. Fine movements of small objects require use of the fingers; e.g., to pick or pinch. Any significant manipulative limitation of an individual’s ability to handle and work with small objects with both hands will result in a significant erosion of the unskilled sedentary occupational base.

Reaching, handling, fingering, and feeling require progressively finer usage of the upper extremities to perform work-related activities. Reaching (extending the hands and arms in any direction) and handling (seizing, holding, grasping, turning or otherwise working primarily with the whole hand or hands) are activities required in almost all jobs. Significant limitations of reaching or handling, therefore, may eliminate a large number of occupations a person could otherwise do.

Do you have sitting limitations?

In order to do a full range of sedentary work, a person must have the capacity for prolonged sitting. Sitting should generally total approximately six hours of an eight-hour workday.

An individual may need to alternate the required sitting of sedentary work by standing (and, possibly, walking) periodically. Where this need cannot be accommodated by scheduled breaks and a lunch period, the occupational base for a full range of unskilled sedentary work will be eroded.

Do you have standing and walking limitations?

A person is expected to be capable of standing and walking intermittently for a total of about two hours out of an eight hour workday. Any significant reduction of standing and walking capacity below this limited amount will reduce the sedentary occupational base. A Social Security Ruling says that the occupational base of a person who can stand and walk for only a few minutes out of the workday would be significantly eroded.

Must you use a cane?

Because sedentary work requires a person to be able to obtain and return objects, and stand and walking for approximately two hours out of an eight hour working day, it follows that use of a cane would limit capacity for a full range of sedentary work. A person sometimes needs two free hands to carry some objects encountered on sedentary jobs.

Do you need to walk around?

The need to periodically walk around (often necessary for those with back problems) is likely a disabling limitation, depending on the frequency and duration of the need to walk around, because this takes a claimant away from the work station.

Do you need to elevate your legs?

The need to elevate one or both legs when sitting may significantly limit the full range of sedentary work depending on how high and for how long during a working day the legs must be elevated.

Are you unable to stoop?

Stooping is defined as bending “the body downward and forward by bending the spine at the waist.” A Social Security Ruling notes that a “complete inability to stoop would significantly erode the unskilled sedentary occupational base and a finding that the individual is disabled would usually apply.” But since most unskilled sedentary jobs require only occasional stooping, a reduction to occasional stooping would only minimally erode the sedentary occupational base.

Do you need to lie down during the day?

Obviously a need to lie down during the day will be accommodated in few unskilled sedentary jobs.

Are you visually impaired?

Most sedentary unskilled occupations require working with small objects. If a visual limitation prevents an individual from seeing the small objects involved in most sedentary unskilled work, or if an individual is not able to avoid ordinary hazards in the workplace, such as boxes on the floor, doors ajar, or approaching people or vehicles, there will be a significant erosion of the sedentary occupational base.

Do you have environmental restrictions?

Certain types of environmental restrictions, such as restrictions on exposure to noise, dust and other respiratory irritants, and odors, if extreme, may significantly limit the ability to do a full range of sedentary work.

Do you have mental impairments?

A substantial loss of ability to meet any one of several basic work-related activities on a sustained basis (i.e., 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, or an equivalent work schedule), will substantially erode the unskilled sedentary occupational base and would justify a finding of disability. These mental activities are generally required by competitive, remunerative, unskilled work:

  • Understanding, remembering, and carrying out simple instructions.
  • Making judgments that are commensurate with the functions of unskilled work—e.g., simple work-related decisions.
  • Responding appropriately to supervision, co-workers and usual work situations.
  • Dealing with changes in a routine work setting.

Do you suffer from any of the following?

These conditions may interfere with the ability to perform sedentary work.

  • The effects of treatment including frequency of treatment, duration, and disruption to routine.
  • Side effects of medication.
  • Dizziness.
  • Bladder or bowel problems that require frequent rest room use.
  • Need to maintain a colostomy or ileostomy.
  • Skin impairment.
  • Headaches.
  • Pain.
  • Seizures.
  • Inability to hold the head in flexed forward position.

We can help with these Social Security disability claims

Social Security disability cases for literate claimants under 50 are tough, but not impossible to win. Skilled assistance is essential.

If you have such a case, are not already represented by a Social Security disability attorney, and want our evaluation, give us a brief description of your claim using the form to the right. Or you may contact us at:

Charles Martin and Joseph Jones
Atlanta Georgia Social Security disability attorneys

E-mail us
Phone: 404-373-3116
Fax: 404-373-4110

123 N. McDonough St.
Decatur, Georgia 30030