SSA ruling indicates that focus of disability inquiry should be on capacity to work, not ability to find a job 

SSR 64-47c

The claimant, a high school graduate who had worked in various capacities in carpentry, including foreman and timekeeper, alleged that he could no longer do such work because of a respiratory impairment. However, extensive medical studies showed that his condition was not severe enough to prevent him from engaging in sedentary or supervisory work.

The examiner at the hearing found that the claimant’s health had improved and that thanks to his high school education, manual skills and previous work experience, the claimant would be capable of being retrained and able to earn a substantial living in radio and television repairs, in supervising construction work, and in other sedentary or semi-sedentary jobs.

The case here went through several twists and turns. First, the man was denied disability in his initial filing. Later, the district court reversed this decision, basing its reversal on the ground that light work of the type that claimant could do, was not available in the area where he lived.

This decision was based, at least in part on the idea that where the claimant lived there was no light work available. The claimant said that jobs such as parking lot attendant, night watchman, or janitor did not exist in his hometown. The district court said that the mere possibility the claimant could do some work was not sufficient to prove that he was capable of gainful employment that was available to him.

The Court of Appeals then reversed the lower court, holding that to be under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, a claimant must be unable to do not only his former work, but also any other substantial gainful work. Moreover, the Court said that when determining whether there is inability to do such other work, the test should be what kinds of work can the claimant perform, not whether such kinds of work are available for the claimant in the vicinity of his residence.

The Court of Appeals said that the Social Security Act is not an unemployment compensation law. The hardship in the case seemed to have more to do with the claimant’s inability to find work rather than his capacity to do work. The Court of Appeals said it would not order such unemployment compensation under the guise of disability benefits.

The Court said that in this case, as in all of disability cases, the claimant must ask the following question: “What jobs are there?” In the context of the Social Security Act, this means what kinds of work can the claimant perform, not what jobs are there available for him in Kosciusko, Mississippi.

If you think you may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits and have questions, call The Law Offices of John T. Nicholson at 1-800-596-1533 for a free consultation today.