The Impact of Non-Exertional Limitations in Your Social Security Disability Claim

The Social Security regulations spell out in detail the manner by which the Social Security Administration (SSA) is to consider a claim for Social Security disability claim. As a Maine, MA and NH Social Security Lawyer handling matters throughout New England for 28 years, we are faced many times with disability claims that involve not simply physical or exertional type limitations. It is just as important to obtain a history and evidence concerning an individual’s non-exertional limitations as part of establishing entitlement to Social Security disability benefits.

Some examples of non-exertional limitations would be certain mental health aptitudes that would impact one’s ability to function from a mental health standpoint at home and in the work place. For instance, an individual’s ability to deal with ordinary daily stress, maintain one’s attention and concentration for periods of time, and one’s ability to understanding and carry out simple instructions would be examples of non-exertional limitations that may cause one great difficulty functioning both in and out of the home (and mostly important, in a work environment). Likewise, non-exertional limitations can include having to go to the restroom during the day as a result of bowel-associated conditions (such as from Colitis or Crohn’s disease), the need to avoid fumes or cold from issues associated with respiratory ailments or for example, or the need to avoid certain “manipulative” or “postural” activities such as reaching, handling, fingering, stooping, climbing (stairs and/or ladders), crawling, balancing, kneeling or crouching.

Social Security regulation 20.C.F.R. §404.1569a spells out the extent to which SSA must address both an individual’s exertional and non-exertional limitations. Examples of exertional limitations would be one’s ability to sit, stand, lift, carry, push, pull, etc., and such exertional limitations are then noted to potentially impact one’s ability to undertake certain classifications of work as defined by the United States Department of Labor (which classifications include that of sedentary, light, medium, heavy and very heavy).

The regulation additionally spells out the agency’s obligation to review how such non-exertional limitations would impact your ability to perform various occupations. Likewise, it is made clear that certain conditions and resulting symptoms and bring about both exertional and non-exertional limitations. For example, an individual’s symptoms of severe depression can result in both exertional and non-exertional limitations (such as the ability to maintain one’s attention and concentration and exert one’s self in terms of standing for a length of time or in terms of their lifting abilities).

The Social Security rulings additionally spell out the manner in which the agency must evaluate both exertional and non-exertional limitations. Social Security Ruling 96-9P spells out a number of non-exertional limitations which, if substantial, may cause a significant erosion in even the sedentary occupational base and result in what should be finding of “disabled” under Social Security’s rules. For example, a significant limitation in terms of one’s ability to undertake manipulation with both hands such as it results in their inability to handle and work with small objects with both hands would result in a significant erosion of the sedentary occupational base. Likewise, the inability to stoop on even an occasional basis would likewise result in a significant erosion of even the sedentary occupational base. From a mental health standpoint, should one remain incapable of understanding and remembering simple instructions or be incapable of adapting to changes in a routine work setting, the types of mental health, non-exertional limitations would justify a finding of disabled.

Part of what an experienced Social Security disability lawyer will do for you is identify the types of non-exertional functional limitations that may impact your ability to function in certain work environments, and then work with you to obtain the necessary evidence from your doctors that will establish as part of your Social Security disability claim.

If you are suffering from a medical disability or disabilities that are causing you significant exertional or non-exertional limitations that are impacting your ability to function at a job, it’s time to contact an experienced Social Security lawyer who can advise you as to whether Social Security disability is right for you.

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