A disability attorney is important in helping applicants for disability benefits understand each and every technical, legal, and medical term encountered during the application process and thereafter. In this blog I will define and explain the terms that the SSA uses to characterize the physical nature and requirements of employment.

To determine the physical exertion requirements of work, jobs are classified as sedentary, light, medium, heavy, and very heavy. These terms have the same (or similar) meaning as they have in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, published by the Department of Labor.   The SSA has various Regulations and Rulings that closely track the DOT definitions.


This type of work requires the ability to sit up to six hours in an eight hour work day, lift light objects such as files and paperwork frequently during the day, and objects weighing up to 10 pounds occasionally during the day. You may lift items of  negligible weight frequently.  There is a Ruling that states most unskilled, sedentary jobs require good use of both hands to complete job tasks.


This type of work requires the ability to stand up to six hours in an eight hour work day, lift up to 10 pounds frequently and up to 20 pounds occasionally.  The definition in practice means that you are on your feet more than 2 hours, and up to 8 hours.  From my experience in hearings, most VE’s will testify that many light jobs allow some degree of sitting and standing.  SSA Rulings tell us that most light jobs have occasional bending and stooping, and aj ob can be light even if you sit all day, yet frequently operate foot controls (sewing machine operator, driving a car) .


This type of work requires the ability to stand up to 6-8  hours in an eight hour work day, lift up to 25 pounds frequently and 50 pounds occasionally.  From my experience in hearing, VE’s tell us that most medium work: has no significant sitting; will not accommodate a sit/stand option; and a limitation on stooping can seriously erode jobs in the medium exertional category.


This type of work requires the same standing requirements as light and medium work, with lifting heavier than medium lifting of 25 pounds frequently and 50 pounds occasionally.

Very Heavy

This type of work involves lifting objects weighing more than 100 pounds at a time with frequent lifting or carrying of objects weighing 50 pounds or more. If someone can do very heavy work, the SSA considers him or her to have the ability to perform heavy, medium, light and sedentary work.

Again, I have seen cases literally turn on the proper exertional characterization of the past work.   It is not always cut and dry.   The particular way you do your job may not exactly correspond to the national definition of your job or occupation. There is always some give and take. Many times,   you end up proving you cannot perform your job: (1) as you did it;  and (2) how it is described in the national economy. The Ruling and Regulations can be your friend or your enemy.  This is the very essence of being a lawyer.  Finding a way for the law to help when it seems impossible.

One of the best ways to make sure you understand all of the technical, legal, and medical terms associated with applying for social security disability benefits is by retaining the services of a qualified Kentucky Social Security Disability attorney. Contact Sullivan Law Office today. We offer free consultations, so you have absolutely nothing to lose! We look forward to hearing from you. Call 888-587-0228 or visit us online.Social Security Terms Defined And Explained Part 4