As discussed previously, Social Security Disability and SSI claims hinge on the Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) of the claimant and whether work exists in the local or national economy in light of that claimant’s RFC. I also recently discussed the different exertional levels the Social Security Administration utilizes: sedentary; light; medium; heavy, etc. The exertional levels are most often defined in terms of strength or ability to walk, stand, or sit. However, other activities can affect the RFC of a claimant in terms of the listed exertional levels. Some of these activities fall under what are defined as postural/manipulative activities or limitations. Examples of these activities are: climbing, balancing, stooping, crouching, crawling, pushing/pulling, kneeling, reaching, and handling.
Limitations in climbing and balancing can have varying effects on the occupational base, depending on the degree of limitation and the type of job. Usual everyday activities, both at home and at work, include ascending or descending ramps or a few stairs and maintaining body equilibrium while doing so. These activities are required more in some jobs that in others, and they may be critical in some occupations. Where a person has some limitation in climbing and balancing and it is the only limitation, it would not ordinarily have a significant impact on the broad world of work.
Stooping, kneeling, crouching, and crawling are progressively more strenuous forms of bending parts of the body, with crawling as a form of locomotion involving bending. Some stooping (bending the body downward and forward by bending the spine at the waist) is required to do almost any kind of work, particularly when objects below the waist are involved. If a person can stoop occasionally (from very little up to one-third of the time) in order to lift objects, the sedentary and light occupational base is virtually intact. An ability to stoop occasionally; i.e., from very little up to one-third of the time, is required in most unskilled sedentary occupations. A complete inability to stoop would significantly erode the unskilled sedentary occupational base and a finding that the individual is disabled would usually apply, but restriction to occasional stooping should, by itself, only minimally erode the unskilled occupational base of sedentary work. However, because of the lifting require for most medium, heavy, and very heavy jobs, a person must be able to stoop frequently (from one-third to two-thirds of the time); inability to do so would substantially affect the more strenuous portion of the occupational base. This is also true for crouching (bending the body downward and forward by bending both the legs and spine). However, crawling on hands and knees and feet is a relatively rare activity even in arduous work, and limitations on the ability to crawl would be of little significance in the broad world or work. This is also true of kneeling (bending the legs at the knees to come to rest on one or both knees).
Reaching, handling, fingering, and feeling require progressively finer usage of the upper extremities to perform work-related activities. Reaching (extending the hands and arms in any direction) and handling (seizing, holding, grasping, turning or otherwise working primarily with the whole hand or hands) are activities required in almost all jobs. Significant limitations of reaching or handling, therefore, may eliminate a large number of occupations a person could otherwise do. “Fingering” involves picking, pinching, or otherwise working primarily with the fingers. It is needed to perform most unskilled sedentary jobs and to perform certain skilled and semiskilled jobs at all levels of exertion. Loss of fine manual dexterity narrows the sedentary and light ranges of work much more than it does the medium, heavy, and very heavy ranges of work.
If you need more information about a Social Security Disability or SSI matter, personal injury matter (car wreck, boating accident, slip and fall, etc.), EEOICPA claim, or a workers compensation matter, please contact the Law Offices of Tony Farmer and John Dreiser for a free case evaluation. We can be reached at (865) 584-1211 or (800) 806-4611, or through our website. Our office handles claims throughout East Tennessee, including Knoxville, Chattanooga, Kingsport, Bristol, Johnson City, Morristown, Maryville, Rogersville, Dandridge, Tazewell, New Tazewell, Jefferson City, Strawberry Plains, Sevierville, Gatlinburg, Loudon, Kingston, Halls, Maynardville, Crossville, Cookeville, Jamestown, Sweetwater, Lenoir City, Athens, Oak Ridge, Clinton, LaFollette, Lake City, Jacksboro, Bean Station, Cosby, Newport, White Pine, Mosheim, Wartburg, Sunbright, Pigeon Forge, and Deer Lodge.