How Does the SSA Define Sedentary Work?

An important question in any Social Security Disability application is whether the person can perform work, including sedentary work. To learn how sedentary work might impact your case, call our Arizona disability lawyers at 602.962.2818.

How Does the SSA Define Sedentary Work?

The Social Security Administration defines sedentary work in CFR § 404.1567 as work that involves walking or standing no more than two hours during an eight-hour workday. It requires lifting no more than 10 pounds occasionally.

SSDI Work Classifications

  • Sedentary – Lifting no more than 10 lbs.
  • Light – Lifting to 20 lbs. at a time, frequent lifting of objects over 10 lbs.
  • Medium – Lifting to 50 lbs., frequent lifting up to 25 lbs.
  • Heavy – Lifting to 100 lbs., frequent lifting up to 50 lbs.
  • Very heavy – Lifting over 100 lbs., frequently lifting over 50 lbs.

See CFR § 404.1567 – Physical exertion requirements

Does sedentary work for SSDI mean no standing or lifting?

Even sedentary work may require infrequent standing, walking, and lifting. A person who can perform sedentary work generally works sitting down, but they may stand or walk for up to two hours of an eight-hour shift. They may carry files, ledgers, and small tools.

Typical tasks of a sedentary job include:

  • Seeing
  • Manipulating
  • Remembering
  • Carrying out
  • Following simple instructions

Examples of sedentary jobs for SSDI

Examples of jobs that might be considered sedentary work for SSDI include:

  • Office clerk, order clerk, receptionist
  • Writer, illustrator, copy examiner
  • Machinist, pager, dial marker, assembler
  • Engineer, lawyer
  • Sales, customer service
  • Remote teaching

Most sedentary jobs are:

  • Skilled or semi-skilled
  • Professional
  • Administrative
  • Technical
  • Clerical
  • Benchwork

The Social Security Administration identifies approximately 200 unskilled sedentary occupations. Most of these jobs are in the machine trades, requiring a short demonstration or not more than 30 days of training.

How Does Sedentary Work Impact SSDI Approval?

A person is disabled if they meet or equal a listing in the SSDI Blue Book. Alternatively, they may be approved for SSDI if their residual functional capacity, because of disability, prevents them from doing their old work or adjusting to new work. Even if a person used to do strenuous work, if they can perform sedentary work, they may not be found disabled.

SSR Policy Interpretation 96-9p and CFR § 201.00 explain how claims examiners view sedentary work as part of an SSDI application. People have different skills, education levels, and work history. Vocational functions can’t be evaluated on medical considerations alone. A finding that a person is medically fit to do sedentary work doesn’t necessarily mean that they are not disabled by SSA standards.

Examiners evaluate whether a person can continue to do their previous work. Then, they look at whether the person can engage in substantial gainful activity other than their past work. They look at whether a transition to sedentary work is reasonable given the person’s skills and physical abilities.

How common is a finding that a person can’t do sedentary work?

A finding of residual functional capacity of less than sedentary work is relatively rare. However, even if a person can do sedentary work, they may be found disabled if there is no sedentary work available in the economy that they can perform given their age, health, and education.

Can You Get SSDI If You Can Do Sedentary Work?

You may qualify for SSDI even if you can do sedentary work. By itself, a finding of whether or not a person can do sedentary work isn’t determinative of whether an SSDI application will be approved. It depends on the person’s age, skills, and how well they may be able to transition to a sedentary job.

Age 50+

Usually, when a person is 50 years old or older, and their residual functional capacity is sedentary work, they are disabled. At an advanced age, a high-school diploma, often completed years ago, is generally seen as not helpful for a vocational adjustment. Unless the worker has experience or skills that allow for direct entry to sedentary work, they are likely to be found disabled. (See CFR § 201.00).

Ages 45-49

When a person is aged 45-49 and has a residual functional capacity of sedentary work, they are most likely to be found disabled if they cannot communicate in English or are illiterate. They may be found disabled even if they can otherwise perform a full range of sedentary work.

Ages 18-49

From ages 18-49, workers are seen as most able to adjust to new work. However, if they are restricted to sedentary work, they may be found disabled if they have no transferable skills, no relevant work history, and they are illiterate.

Is sedentary work the same thing as light duty?

Sedentary work and light duty are not the same thing. As part of an SSDI application, sedentary work is less strenuous than light work. The term light duty is generally associated with workers’ compensation when a person can work in a modified and limited capacity. Light work in SSDI refers to whether a person can perform work that requires lighting up to 20 lbs. at a time and frequent lifting of objects over 10 lbs.

How an attorney can help

Whether your Social Security Disability application is successful may depend on your ability to perform sedentary work. The claims examiner needs to reach the correct determination of whether you can perform sedentary work and whether it’s reasonable to expect you to make the transition to sedentary work.

At Pekas Smith Disability Attorneys, we can help you gather the necessary evidence to present your application. Our attorneys understand how sedentary work is evaluated in Social Security Disability. We can ensure that you present the necessary medical and occupational information to assist claims examiners in making the correct decision.

Talk to a Lawyer

Do you have questions about sedentary work? Are you wondering how sedentary work may impact your Social Security Disability application? Contact the Pekas Smith Disability Attorneys for a consultation about your case.

Call 602.962.2818 or message us now.

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