Social Security defines sedentary work (or sit-down work) as the ability to lift up to 10 pounds occasionally as well as sit up to 6 to 8 hours out of an 8 hour day and walk or stand up to 2 hours out of an 8 hour day. SSR 96 9p. In addition, they find that any significant limitations in somebody’s ability to handle finger, feel or reach as well as working with small objects significantly erodes the unskilled sedentary occupational base. Id.
Bilateral manual dexterity (the use of both hands) is a non-exertional impairment. That means that it is not a strength-based impairment. SSR 83 14. Social Security finds that bilateral manual dexterity is “necessary for the performance of substantially all unskilled sedentary occupations.” Id.
Social Security needs to consider limitations that affect your ability to use your hands consistently throughout the workday. If an individual cannot use their hands on a consistent basis, it affects the types of jobs they can perform. For example, if someone can only use their hands on a less than occasional basis (less than 1/3 of the workday), then there is unlikely to be any work at the sedentary level that they can perform. “[O]nce the requisite relationship between the medically determinable impairment(s) and the alleged symptom(s) is established, the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of the symptom(s) must be considered along with the objective medical evidence and other evidence in determining whether the impairment or combination of impairments is severe.” SSR 96 3p.
This means that Social Security will consider what the medical records reflect as far as the medical impairment and limitations that you may have. But you can also testify to how your medical conditions affect your ability. For instance, you can testify to how your arthritis affects your ability to use your hands to open jars, work on a keyboard or write with a pen.
It is important to keep up to date with your doctor. Social Security will not consider a condition that has not been diagnosed by a doctor. It is important that your doctor know everything that is going on so they can make an accurate, detailed diagnosis. Medical tests only help the doctor determine your problems to a certain point. You are the best source of information regarding your health the doctor has. Consistent medical treatment will help Social Security understand that your problem is on going.
If you have questions regarding Social Security Disability if you cannot use both hands or any other social security disability issues, contact Susan O’Malley in our Raleigh, North Carolina office to discuss.