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How Multiple Impairments Affect Disability Claims

A common question clients ask me is if they can get disability for more than one medical condition.

And the answer is absolutely, yes. It’s extremely important to let Social Security know about any medical impairment that prevents you from working.

Sometimes claimants mistakenly think they can only file for disability for one issue, or they initially file due to one impairment like back pain but later develop heart issues or depression.

As long as there is medical documentation for these conditions, Social Security must take them into account when determining your ability to work.

For example, once Social Security determines that you have a medically determinable severe impairment, they must consider whether you meet or equal a Listing.

Listings cover a variety of impairments and have specific requirements to meet them.

For example, Listing 1.03 Reconstructive Surgery or Surgical Arthrodesis of a Major Weight-Bearing Joint requires the “inability to effectively ambulate,” which is defined as among other things “the inability to walk without the use of a walker, two crutches or two canes.”

Very few people will automatically meet that listing based on that requirement, but if in addition to having knee surgery that requires the use of one cane you also have asthma and are obese, a doctor may find that you equal the requirements of the listing and are automatically disabled.

Even if you don’t meet or equal a listing, Social Security must come up with what’s called a residual functional capacity (RFC) to determine whether you are capable of work.

This is another reason it’s important to make the administration aware of all of your impairments.

If you are a younger individual under age 50 who has had a knee replacement and do not meet or equal a Listing, Social Security will likely find that you are capable of a sit down job, like working on an assembly line.

But if you have another impairment like a rotator cuff tear that also doesn’t meet a Listing, Social Security must incorporate limitations from both conditions into your RFC, and the combination of limitations could result in a finding of disability due to an RFC with no jobs that you are physically capable of performing.

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