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What is the sedentary exertional level for Social Security disability?

Social Security classifies the physical exertion requirements of jobs as sedentary, light, medium, heavy and very heavy. See 20 C.F.R. 404.1567. Social Security gives those terms the same meaning as they have in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles.

The sedentary exertional level involves lifting no more than 10 pounds at a time and occasionally lifting or carrying articles like files or other small items. Although a sedentary job is defined as one which involves sitting, a certain amount of walking and standing is often necessary. Jobs are sedentary if walking and standing are required only occasionally, and the other sedentary criteria are met.

Since being on one's feet is required "occasionally" at the sedentary level of exertion, periods of standing or walking should generally total no more than about 2 hours of an 8-hour workday, and sitting should generally total approximately 6 hours of an 8-hour workday. Further, most unskilled sedentary jobs require good use of the hands and fingers. See Social Security Ruling 83-10.

The sedentary exertional level is an important landmark in the Social Security disability landscape.

If there are no sedentary jobs in a claimant's past relevant work, a claimant over 50 who is limited to unskilled sedentary work will win at step 5 via the medical-vocational guidelines.

However, a claimant under the age of 50, or a claimant over 50 with job skills that readily transfer to a significant range of skilled sedentary work, will need additional limitations to prevail.