Will the inability to do daily activities say to Social Security you cannot work?

I read in an appeal that higher courts have said SSA can't use RFCs that apply for what a claimant can do at home means that translates into being able to work. Does SSA actually apply that thinking or do they think if you can button your shirt you can type?

SSA disability examiners don't really give a lot of consideration to what happens in district courts or circuits. They don't look at POMS or HALLEX. They are white collar production workers and they grind out case decisions.

There is an association between ADL or activities of daily living and the ability to engage in work activity.

How strong is that association? This is unclear. But sometimes a person is fully capable of using a vacuum cleaner, dressing themselves, bringing in groceries, etc. That doesn't necessarily mean they should be considered capable of engaging in sustained work activity (and, of course, it depends on the work activity).

This is what examiners do, if this will help flesh out the process. They call claimants and make an "ADL call". That means they will ask a person if they can run a vacuum, dress themselves, etc. But---once that ADL call has been made and the ADL report of contact has been done, the examiner will not look at it again. That is because while the examiner knows they are required to ask these questions, they also know it doesn't have a lot to do with the processing of the case. That's most cases.

However, there are cases where the ADL questioning is useful such as when a person with carpal tunnel or someone with degenerative arthritis describes how they cannot do certain physical tasks. Running a vacuum for example is difficult with certain back conditions. Taking in groceries is hard if you have shoulder problems. And getting things done in general is difficult when there are short-term memory issues.

So, this is not to totally minimize the impact of ADLs. They can have an impact on a case. But I would say "most" of the time, not a whole lot. Now, if you ask a DDS unit supervisor, they will not say that because they have to defend everything they do. They can't very well admit that they actually spend time having people do things that are not the most useful or productive. Once, again, we should reiterate that ADLs do provide good information, in some some cases.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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