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What the SSA considers when assessing ability to return to work

On Behalf of | Aug 16, 2016 | Social Security Disability

In a recent post on this blog, we discussed an important decision regarding the considerations that must be taken by the Social Security Administration when assessing a person’s ability to work in light of a disabling condition. That post, which can be read in full here, mentioned the fact that full extent of certain limitations, including the ability to concentrate and keep pace, were not previously considered.

In this post, we will look more broadly at all the elements the SSA considers when it is deciding if a person has a disabling condition and whether that condition prevents them from working.

According to the SSA website, the factors it will typically look at when assessing an applicant’s ability to complete basic work functions includes:

  • An ability to comprehend and remember instructions
  • Being able to perform physical exertions like standing, sitting, walking, lifting, reaching, kneeling or using your fingers and hands
  • Being able to tolerate certain environments that are loud, odorous, hot or cold, off the ground or crowded by people
  • Adapting to changes in the workplace
  • Being able to see, hear and communicate with others
  • Having the ability to concentrate and maintain that concentration for an appropriate amount of time

Each of these factors will be essential in just about any job a person can have. If a person cannot perform one or more of these functions, it may be unreasonable to expect him or her to be able to return to work.

Unfortunately, the SSA can have a very different opinion on a person’s capabilities than that person has. This is why it can be so critical to have in place evidence of limitations and statements detailing how severely a medical condition will affect a person’s ability to return to work.

If you have concerns or questions about a specific condition and how the SSA might assess your condition in regards to returning to work, you can consult an attorney familiar with the processes and challenges of seeking benefits from the SSA.


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