The rules that for determining disability apply most directly to impairments that limit your physical ability to stand, sit, walk, lift, bend or work with your hands. Mental impairments are a bit more complicated.
If you are unable to do certain kinds of manual labor, whether because of a back problem or a heart condition or breathing problem or some other medical problem, your lawyer will be able to look at the rules and figure out what you’ve got to prove to win your case. Here are some examples:
•If you are under age 50, the general rule is that you’ve got to prove that you can’t do an easy sit-down job or even a job where you’re allowed to alternate sitting and standing during the workday. You’ve got to prove this even though you might not be hired for such a job.
•If you are age 50 through 54, the general rule is that you have to prove that you cannot do light work, that is, work involving being on your feet most of the day and lifting up to about 20 pounds. Thus, even though you might still be able to do a sit-down job, a desk job, you can still be found disabled.
•If you are age 55 or older, it gets even easier. The general rule is that you have to prove that you cannot do “medium” work, that is, work involving being on your feet for most of the day, frequently lifting 25 pounds, occasionally up to 50 pounds. Thus, you can even be capable of doing light work and still be found disabled.
As you can see, your representative will not only prove what you can’t do, but also what you can do. In most cases, the judges just won’t accept any sort of “I can’t do anything” explanation for why you’re disabled.
These issues can get complicated when you’ve had jobs in the past where you’ve learned a lot of skills. The judge is going to want to know about your work skills, and you are going to have to be able to explain them to the judge.
How does your repersentative go about proving all of this? He or she does it through your testimony in response to questions from the judge and your representative at the hearing. Although your representative will remind you if you forget something, it’s best if you can answer all questions thoroughly yourself. Otherwise, it could look like your representative is prodding you or putting words in your mouth.