Does the SSA take Environmental Impairments into Account?

There are many disabling conditions, which include an environmental impairment aspect, like hypersensitivity to noise and light, or inability to tolerate dust, fumes or other common environmental elements found in the workplaces within your field of expertise.

In some cases, though relatively rare, the environmental impairment alone may be the reason for filing a disability claim. In other cases, the disability claim may be based on a diagnosed medical condition that has environmental impairment symptoms associated with it. In either type of Social Security Disability case, you will be required to provide substantial proof of the limitations your disability places on your ability to work.

Types of Impairments

The Social Security Administration categorizes types of impairments for the purposes of evaluating an SSD applicant’s ability to perform essential job duties. There are two main categories of employment-related impairments or limitations the SSA recognizes: Exertional capacity and Non-exertional.

Exertional impairments are the more common type seen in SSD benefits claims. These kinds of limitations relate to an applicant’s inability to perform routine activities required on the job. There are seven subcategories under exertional impairments: pushing, pulling, lifting, carrying, sitting, standing, and walking.

Non-exertional impairments, while less common, are still valid reasons for filing a disability claim when they severely limit one’s ability to get and keep a job. There are five subcategories of nonexertional impairments the SSA takes into account: postural, manipulative, environmental, sensory and mental.

How the SSA Evaluates Environmental Impairments

The SSA does review and sometimes approve SSD claims that are entirely based on environmental impairments. More often however, applicants for SSD who are approved for benefits have environmental impairments, which play a part in their overall medical condition. In other words, most claims approved contain a diagnosis of another primary condition, which has environmental impairment symptoms.

When evaluating any SSD application, the SSA looks at not only the medical disability of the applicant, but also his or her employment prospects. If for instance, an applicant is qualified to work in another field in which his or her disability would not be an issue, then the SSA will want to know why the individual has not simply switched careers in order to find gainful employment.

The SSA may deny a claim when the applicant has not sought work for which he or she is qualified and physically capable of performing. They may also approve disability benefits, but require the beneficiary to participate in vocational rehabilitation, which essentially helps prepare the person to work in a different field where his or her disability would not limit or prevent employment. The goal is for the beneficiary to only be on disability while in vocational rehabilitation and SSD benefits would end when he or she finds new work in a different field.

Filing for SSD with Environmental Impairments

Some SSD claims may be entirely based on a Non-exertional impairment, while others will include a combination of conditions that severely limit the applicant, particularly when viewed as a syndrome or cluster of symptoms. Seeking legal assistance from a Social Security attorney with any SSD claim is advisable, even when the claim only includes environmental impairments as a portion of the reason why you’re unable to find and maintain gainful employment. Proving environmental impairments are the sole reason you cannot find and/or keep a job can be quite challenging, and having legal help in putting together your SSD application is crucial in such a case.