Disability Attorney Advice: Proving You Cannot Work

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Advice from a Disability Attorney: What Prevents You from Working?

By James Pavisian, Attorney, PLF

As a disability attorney, I meet with potential clients and I ask a simple question: why are you disabled? I have had them pull out bags of medicine. I have had them point to a list of medical conditions attributed to them by their doctors. I have had them list symptoms that they suffer or hobbies that they have lost.  My answer to these statements is always the same: “you still haven’t told me why are disabled.”

Whether someone is disabled is a legal question. This means a court of law, not a medical board, decides if an individual is disabled. To be disabled, an individual has to prove that they have medical limitations that would prevent them from performing work in any occupation. The emphasis is always on the medical limitations. With very few exceptions, the disagreement in a disability claim is not whether an individual suffers from a particular medical condition but whether they suffer from a particular medical limitation. Simply put, the Social Security Administration is not going to disagree that an individual has back pain, but it will disagree with the individual’s claim that the back pain prevents them sitting longer than 10 minutes at a time.  For this reason, some individuals with very debilitating symptoms lose their claims because they are so focused on their condition they forget to document their limitations.

When I meet with a potential client, we spend most our meeting discussing this distinction.  I help them see their condition more in work limitations rather than symptoms and I give them tools to help them start documenting their work limitations. Regardless of the condition (whether physical or psychological), it always comes down to two things:

  1. Absenteeism: no matter what occupation, the employer is going to expect his or her employee to be at work.  No one will be able to maintain a job if he or she misses too much work. To this end, most vocational experts will testify an individual cannot have more than two absences a month and maintain a job.
  2. Accommodations: The Social Security Administration is trying to determine if an individual is able to perform competitive work. This means work that is not accommodated.  For example, an individual is still disabled even if he or she could work full-time only if their employer let them take breaks every hour for thirty minutes.  Similarly, it is not competitive work if the employee needs to elevate their feet more than a foot regularly throughout the workday.  For this reason, being able to work full-time with accommodations is not inconsistent with disability

Contact a Disability Attorney

Speaking with a disability attorney prior to filing for disability can be helpful to reshape your mind and see your claim differently than your medical treatment. It can help you document your limitations better and possibly result in a favorable decision sooner. At Parmele Law Firm, our consultations are completely free. Contact us today to set up a consultation with a disability attorney.