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Exertional Versus Non - Exertional Impairments And Social Security Disability
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Hello again!

In a previous article, I discussed the general requirements for qualifying for Social Security Disability. I mentioned the work history factor, as well as the legal definition of disability. I then simplified that definition.

Here, I will talk about "exertional" versus "non-exertional" impairments and how they impact whether you can be found disabled or not.

Exertional impairments, very simply, are mobility issues. Anything to do with using your limbs qualifies. So, ask yourself: How long can I stand up and walk without needing to rest? How long can I sit down before experiencing discomfort and needing to get up or shift around? Can I kneel down? Climb? Bend over? If any of these, or a combination of them, are difficult, you have an exertional impairment.

Social Security's general rule is that if you cannot stand up and walk around for at least 2 hours without experiencing major discomfort, you are severely impaired exertionally. Similarly, if you cannot remain seated for at least 2 hours straight, you are severely limited exertionally.

Non-exertional impairments, on the other hand, generally involve mental disorders. And, no, it does not imply you are "crazy" or "retarded". Mental disorders run the gamut from depression and anxiety to full-blown psychosis. Social Security measures severity of limitation very differently for mental disorders.

Do you have anxiety attacks regularly? Do you have low energy levels from depression? Do you experience inappropriate outbursts of anger? Do you have trouble completing projects that you start? Have you ever gotten into conflicts with your supervisor? Have you had trouble maintaining steady employment?

All of these factors are considered non-exertional limitations. In some cases, they can be even more severe than exertional limitations. The major issue is to what extent a mental disorder has impacted your getting or maintaining employment over an extended period of time.

Many people superficially know they have emotional issues, but cannot tie that in effectively with job performance. They just know, or their relatives notice, that they appear unable to hold down a job for a long period of time. It can be a severe blow to the ego, and can certainly cause difficulty relating to family and friends.

If you have ever heard comments like "You got fired again?" or "You were only there 6 months. What did you do?", chances are that your mental illness is a severe limitation occupationally. Most employers will only tell you that "things are not working out" or "your performance is below par", without going into why.

So, to sum up, Social Security considers both exertional and non-exertional limitations when determining disability. They are very different, and many people suffer from both. The key is to connect the limitations to the ability to work and maintain employment.

Til next time!

Scott Transue

Street Talk

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