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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My doctor says I am limited to "Light Duty." Why was my disability claim denied?

To doctors, restricting you to "light duty" usually means that you need some kind of accommodation to perform your job. This can include a reduction in work hours, performing less physically or mentally demanding tasks, and having fewer duties.

However, when your doctor says you can do "light duty," the Social Security Administration and many insurance companies will assume that means you can perform "light work," which is not always the same thing.

In classifying the type of work that you can do, Social Security and most insurance companies rely on the definitions found in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, a publication of the U.S. Department of Labor. Light work is defined as:

Light Work - exerting up to 20 pounds of force occasionally, and/or up to 10 pounds of force frequently, and/or a negligible amount of force constantly (Constantly: activity or condition exists 2/3 or more of the time) to move objects. Physical demand requirements are in excess of those for Sedentary Work. Even though the weight lifted may be only a negligible amount, a job should be rated Light Work: (1) when it requires walking or standing to a significant degree; or (2) when it requires sitting most of the time but entails pushing and/or pulling of arm or leg controls; and (3) when the job requires working at a production rate pace entailing the constant pushing and/or pulling of materials even though the weight of those materials is negligible.

For the most part, if you are able to do light work, you are also considered to have the ability to perform sedentary work as well. "Sedentary" is the term for jobs that are typically done in seated in a chair. These classifications encompass a wide range of jobs in the national economy at all education and skill levels.

In a Social Security claim, if you can perform the full range of light work, your claim will be denied unless you are:
  • Older than 50 and are illiterate and unable to communicate in English with an unskilled work history
  • Older than 55 with no transferable skills
In a disability insurance claim, the definition of disability depends on your policy, so it is important to know what that definition is. Depending on your job and the policy, being limited to "light duty" may still mean that the insurance company finds you to be disabled because you cannot perform your regular job. However, the insurance company could have a much stricter definition of disability and your claim could be denied.

Your doctor will put you in a much better position to be approved for disability benefits if he or she lists your specific restrictions or why you would only be able to perform light duty, including workplace accommodations needed, restrictions on the number of hours you can work, and physical and mental limitations.

Copyright (c) 2010 by John V. Tucker and Tucker & Ludin, P.A. All rights reserved. For assistance with your Long Term Disability claim, ERISA Disability benefit claim, Social Security Disability claim, or Veterans Disability compensation or pension claim, call Disability Lawyer John Tucker at (866) 282-5260.

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