Does Social Security Disability Depend on Your Level of Illness or the type of Work you did?

Actually, it depends on both. With regard to "level of illness", social security isn't looking so much at the condition that has been diagnosed, but, instead, at the functional limitations that exist as a result of the condition (or medical conditions if the claimant has more than one problem).

Functional limitations and having them documented in the claimant's medical evidence of record is very important because they are compared against the mental and physical demands of a claimant's past work, as well as other work that a claimant might be thought capable of doing.

Unfortunately, the great majority of physician records...are not highly illustrative when it comes to functional capacity. Doctors write their notes for themselves and other doctors, and in keeping with this they record the information that they find useful. Typically, this does not include observations such as how long a person can sit or stand, whether or not they can stoop or crouch, what their exertional abilities might be, and so forth.

Yet, this is exactly the type of information that the social security administration is looking for. It' not hard to guess that, because doctors are not in the habit of recording notes that point to residual functional capacity, it can be difficult to get a clear opinion from them (which is why a residual functional capacity form can be so useful).

Will a Social Security Disability or SSI disability claim depend on the type of work you did? In a sense. If your current rated limitations (rated by the disability examiner who is assigned to process your case and the medical consultant attached to the examiner's unit) exceed the demands of your past work and other types of work that social security might think you capable of doing, you can be medically approved for disability.

However, here it becomes very clear that having higher levels of job skills, or a greater level of education, or a history of less exertionally-demanding work can work against you. Why? Because your medical-vocational profile will show that either A) you can return to your past work or B) you are in a better position to do some type of work other than what you normally did. This, of course, is why attention to your work history, and having your past work history properly classified, can be very important.

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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