Social Security will find you disabled if you have a medical or mental health problem that prevents you from working a simple, entry level job. Your condition must have lasted or be expected to last 12 consecutive months or result in death.
When I speak to potential clients, the question I ask myself is “would this person have a problem being a reliable employee at an entry level job?”
Reliability problems can arise from medical issues that case any of the following:
- your need to take multiple unscheduled breaks during the day
- your need to miss two or more days of work per month
- your inability to sit or stand in a work setting for 8 hours a day
- your inability to maintain attention, concentration and focus at work
- your inability to behave in an emotionally stable manner at work
Some of the medical problems that almost always result in reliability problems include:
- severe damage to the back or neck that limits your mobility and leaves you in unrelenting pain
- medical issues like carpal tunnel that prevent you from using your hands and arms on a consistent basis during the day
- irritable bowel syndrome resulting in multiple trips to the bathroom during the day
- conditions where you are prescribed diuretics, resulting in the need for frequent urination
- heart problems that leave you fatigued and unable to get through a workday
- mental health problems where you cannot maintain focus or behave in an manner acceptable at a job
- any condition that has required or will require a major surgery
- any condition where you have been referred to long term pain management
- conditions in which a major organ or gland does not function
- closed head injury cases
- circulatory systems problems like DVT or chronic venous insufficiency
I also find that Social Security judges are usually more sympathetic to claimants close to or older than age 50. Judges also tend to give more benefit of the doubt to a claimant with a long, consistent work history.
If we are using a functional capacity strategy, we can combine the work capacity effects of your medical problems. For example:
- if you have carpal tunnel syndrome that limits the use of your right, dominant hand to “occasional”
- Type II diabetes where your blood sugar exceeds 300 three or more times per week for 45 minutes or longer
- you have congestive heart failure that prevents you from standing and walking more than 10 minutes at a time and no more than 60 minutes during a day
- you take Lasix resulting in the need to urinate ever 45 minutes
the combined effect of these limitations would so interfere with your reliability that any vocational witness used by the judge would conclude that you could not perform any job in the regional or national economy.
As you can see, Social Security judges are more concerned about the effect of your medical problems on your capacity to work than they are on the diagnosis.