If You Cannot Keep a Job You May Be Disabled

by John R. Heard on April 1, 2015 · 0 comments

in Winning Disability Benefits,Past Relevant Work (Step 4),Capability to Work (Step 5),Vocational or Work Issues

In order to prove that you are disabled you have to prove that there is not any job you can do that exists in significant numbers in the national economy if you were hired to do that job. It’s not enough to prove that you couldn’t get hired.  If the standard for disability were to prove that you couldn’t get hired then in difficult economic times when it is difficult to find a job it would be easier to prove you are disabled.  And when times are booming and the economy is great it would be harder to prove you were disabled, so that’s not how the system works.

The system is based around the concept that if you were placed in a job somehow magically, could you perform the duties that go along with that job? There is a very important aspect to the question “could you perform those duties”, and that is could you perform the duties on a sustained basis. Are you able to do that job eight hours a day, five days a week, 50 weeks a year?

Here is an example to illustrate the point.  If we had someone with significant back problems the individual could certainly go in and do some work, maybe even do a job similar or identical to what they did in the past, but not on a sustained basis.  With bad back pain it’s likely the person wouldn’t last more than two or three days and then they would be flat on their back trying to recuperate for another day or two after that. No employer is going to allow you to take off a day or two every week.  If a person takes too many days off because of their condition they cannot sustain employment in a competitive work environment.

Another common example is that people with many medical problems have so many doctor’s appointments that they are constantly having to be at a doctor’s appointments or treatment visits.  These appointments would interfere with their ability to work on a sustained basis.  Other examples would be people who have emotional difficulties, or anxiety or depression issues that come and go.  Certain mental conditions wax and wane, we certainly see this with bipolar disorder.  If those problems are bad enough on bad days to keep someone from work or make them not productive at work then they wouldn’t likely be able to maintain their job.

So even if you have a condition that doesn’t affect you every day, it still could be enough of an erosion in your ability to work to take you out of the running for competitive employment.  Remember to discuss reasons why you don’t think you would be able to sustain employment over time in your disability application forms or at your hearing if that is true in your case.

Of course the law requires medical evidence as proof, and proving sustainability can be hard.  What you need is treating physician evidence from your own doctor(s).  You will want your doctor to complete a form or provide a letter to Social Security detailing the doctor’s opinion on your ability to do work like activities on a sustained basis.  If you have a disability lawyer they will be able to give you these forms.  A doctor who knows you is likely to be able to point to specific aspects of your symptoms & conditions that would make it impossible for you to sustain employment on a consistent basis.

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