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Midwest Disability, P.A. - Social Security Disability
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Exertional Limitations

A medical disability can severely limit an individual’s exertional capacity to work. Exertional capacity addresses an individual’s limitations and restrictions of physical strength and defines the individual’s remaining ability to perform activities in the areas of sitting, standing, walking, lifting, carrying, pushing, and pulling.[1] To quantify these limitations, Social Security Administration (SSA) will examine the objective medical evidence, as well as claimant testimony at a hearing.

When Social Security Disability claimants indicate that they cannot perform certain postures for long periods of time, the adjudicator will invariably need more specific information.  A “long period of time” is subjective, and the difference between minutes and hours could make a huge difference on a disability determination. A limitation to standing or walking only 2 hours a day, for example, could limit a claimant to sedentary work, whereas a full range of light duty work typically requires standing and walking for a total of 6 hours in an 8-hour workday.  Other limitations such as climbing, kneeling, stooping, crouching, crawling, reaching, fingering, and handling objects can also severely erode the occupational base and warrant a finding of disability.[2]

To categorize the extent of these limitations, SSA refers to the durational scaling used in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT).[3] “Constantly” means from 2/3 up to the full 8-hour workday. “Frequently” means occurring from 1/3 to 2/3 of the day. “Occasionally” means very little up to 1/3 of the day. “Never” means not at all. Though not listed in the DOT durational scaling, the term “rarely” has also been used to describe 1% to 5% of the workday.[4]

At a hearing, vocational experts often testify as to whether certain jobs can be performed in the national economy with certain limitations. Although an administrative law judge (ALJ) must consider vocational testimony, the claimant and representative have the right to cross-examine the expert on vocational issues.[5] However, ultimately the hearing decision lies with the ALJ.


[1] SSR 96-9p

[2] SSR 83-10, SSR 85-15

[3] SSR 83-14

[4] Panelist – Kevin Liebkemann.pdf

[5] SSR 00-4p, HALLEX I-2-6-74

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