Maximum Sustained Work Capability

The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers your working ability as part of your application for disability benefits. This is achieved by determining the highest level of sustained work you are capable of based on information in medical records and questionnaires completed during the claim process. To determine the physical exertion requirements of occupations and your maximum sustained capability, jobs are broken down into five categories. These are sedentary work, light work, medium work, heavy work, and very heavy work. 

  • Sedentary work: Pertains to work that will generally be performed while sitting, with no more than 2 hours of walking and/or standing per 8-hour shift. To be able to perform sedentary work you must also be able to lift at least 10 pounds at a time. 
  • Light work: For light work, you have to be able to lift up to 20 pounds at a time and frequently lift and carry up to ten pounds per 8-hour shift. You must also be able to stand for up to 6 hours per shift. 
  • Medium Work: You have to be able to lift up to 50 pounds at a time for medium work. You must also be able to lift and carry up to 25 pounds on a consistent basis and be able to stand and walk 6 hours per 8-hour shift. 
  • Heavy Work: For heavy work, you need to be able to lift up to 100 pounds, with frequent lifting or carrying of objects weighing 50 pounds or more.
  • Very heavy work: Very heavy work involves lifting objects weighing more than 100 pounds at a time with frequent lifting or carrying of objects weighing 50 pounds or more.

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