Your Social Security Disability Claim: What does Good Posture have to do with it?

We can all recall being told as children to sit up straight at the dinner table.  And yet for those who are suffering from a severe medical impairment, such as a severe back or neck condition (whether from issues with arthritis or from a herniated disk that is causing issues with radiculopathy), sitting in a chair at a kitchen table upright can be quite painful.  Similarly, those suffering from painful nerve conditions such as diabetic neuropathy may find it quite painful to have their feet on the ground.

A Social Security disability claim requires one to prove that they remain disabled from performing any manner of employment, making gainful wages on a regular and continuing basis, as a result of a severe medical impairment.   Just as was the case growing up, maintaining a certain posture is important to the successful performance of many types of jobs.  Any job requires that one be able to undertake some combination of sitting, standing or walking.  No job is going to allow one to recline or lie down during the day.  For those that work at a desk position, it is difficult to do so from a reclining position, and certainly attempting to recline at a job (even a sit/stand option position) is not going to go over well with an employer.

The Social Security regulations recognize the fact that one’s ability to perform a job successfully will depend on one’s age, education, work experience, potentially transferable skills and physical and/or mental health limitations. For those who are 50 years old or older, the Social Security regulations include a set of rules that take into account the above factors (called the Vocational Medical Guidelines, or Grid rules) and, in doing so, consider the difficulties older individuals who have worked more physical jobs will have in transferring to sedentary work.

As a Maine Social Security lawyer, with offices throughout Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, we are frequently represent individuals with varied work backgrounds: some have worked construction or union laborer positions their entire careers, others may have been working in office settings their entire lives.  Understanding the rules that apply to both is critical.  Likewise, providing the Social Security Administration (SSA) with a residual functional capacity assessment from one’s treating specialists can make evident how one’s need to change postures throughout the day or avoid certain postures would hinder one’s ability to perform certain types of employment.

Social Security regulation 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567  defines work as falling into the following exertional categories: very heavy, heavy, medium, light and sedentary.   Very heavy work involves lifting in excess of 100 lbs. on occasion, with heavy work defined as the ability to lift up to 100 lbs., medium work as the ability to lift up to 50 lbs. occasionally and 25 lbs. frequently, light work as the ability to lift up to 20 lbs. occasionally and 10 lbs. frequently and sedentary work as the ability to lift up  to 10 pounds at a time along with occasional lifting or carrying of small articles such as “docket files, ledgers, and small tools.” Social Security Ruling 83-10 provides additional clarifying guidance, explaining that occasionally means very little up to 1/3 of the time.

The postural requirements for light, medium, heavy and very heavy work require the ability to stand/walk for what would be at least 6 out of 8 hours per day.  Assuming one’s medical conditions, whether physical and/or mental, would cause one to be unable to stand/walk for such a period of time, day in and day out, throughout a 40 hour work week, then these types of jobs would be ruled out.

Sedentary occupations, on the other hand, require one to be able to sit for a period of 6 hours out of an 8 hour workday.   It is important to understand that sitting is much different than reclining in one’s recliner, or when leaning back on the living room couch with their feet raised up on an end table.  Moreover, Social Security Ruling 96-9P recognizes the importance attached to one’s need to change positions from sitting, standing and walking given one’s medical and the fact that this will have a direct impact on one’s ability to perform  many sedentary positions.   Thus, many times, at the hearing level, an Administrative Law Judge may call upon a vocational expert to testify as to the impact such functional limitations will have on one’s ability to perform such jobs.

Social Security Ruling 96-9P additionally provides that the inability to stoop on even an occasional basis (i.e., bending forward at the waist) would have a significant impact on the availability of jobs in the national economy, providing that such a limitation would would result in a significant erosion in the sedentary occupational base.

Needless to say, posture matters: whether for a child at the dinner table or for a potential worker at a job.  It is yet another reason why having a Social Security disability lawyer is important to ensuring proper documentation is presented as to why one remains disabled from working.  Contact the Law Offices of Russell J. Goldsmith at 1-800-773-8622 for a free evaluation of your individual circumstances so as to see how we might be able to assist you.