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Sedentary work can I do it?

Many claimants are denied SSDI benefits not because they are not disabled, but simply because they do not understand how to prove they cannot work. Recently on our forum a user asked, “I have been denied SSDI benefits because the SSA believes I can retrain for sedentary work. I don’t think I can work, even if the job was a sit-down job. What do I do now?”


To win Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) you will need to prove that you cannot work your current job, a past job, or retain for new work. To do this you will generally need to prove you cannot perform what the SSA considers “sedentary work.”

What is sedentary work?

Sedentary work is the job-classification which requires the least amount of physical exertion. Claimants who are not allowed to perform even sedentary work given their physical limitations will be considered disabled by the SSA. The SSA defines sedentary work as the following:

Common sedentary jobs include assemblers, packers, sorters, receptionists, or dispatchers.

What medical evidence do I need to prove I cannot work?

Most claimants are denied benefits because they do not have medical evidence to support their claim of disability. To prove you cannot work you will need strong medical evidence which clearly states your limitations.

The SSA will gather your medical records and prepare what they call a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment. This report will detail any work-related limitations they believe you have which limit your ability to perform continual and regular work. The information to complete the RFC will be gathered from your medical records.

After completing the RFC, the SSA will determine what level of work they believe you can perform (i.e., sedentary, light, medium, or heavy). Sedentary work is the least rigorous type of work. If they limit you to only sedentary work this means they have determined you cannot perform any of the other types of work.

It’s not unusual, however, for the SSA to deny claims when the claimant can only perform sedentary work. If this occurs, it means the SSA believes there are various sit-down jobs available for you.

Fighting a claim that you can do sedentary work

So what do you do if you have been denied SSDI because the SSA claims you can perform sedentary work? Review the job requirements listed for sedentary work above and determine if you have medical evidence which proves you cannot perform one of the job requirements.

For example, has the doctor limited you to lifting less than 10 pounds? Can you stand for two hours per day? Do you have to use a walker? Do you have to keep one leg elevated while sitting? Can you sit for six hours per day? Are you able to manipulate your fingers? Do you have visual limitations? Do you have to lie down throughout the day?

If you are able to prove that you have several limitations to performing sedentary work it’s likely you could argue that your limitations have significantly eroded the occupational base for sedentary work. Remember, however, your goal is to prove that the base has been eroded to such an extent that there are no sedentary jobs you can perform.

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