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What weighs 50 pounds? This has been on my mind lately, because I have been working on a Social Security disability claim for a client who was given a medium exertional residual functional capacity by a physician at Disability Determination Services (DDS). A medium RFC requires (among other things) the ability to lift and carry 50 pounds for up to one-third of a workday.

I am often puzzled when I see a medium RFC, particularly for a claimant who is 55+ years old and has worked steadily for 35 years. Do they think that this person stopped work for no reason? Did they not look at the sterling work history? Do they understand that when someone complains repeatedly about back pain to the doctor, and has xrays and MRIs, that there is a genuine impairment? It is perplexing that a DDS physician or examiner would consider these things and still assess an RFC at the medium exertional level.

Tim Moore, a former Social Security disability examiner who now writes a disability blog, theorizes that there is an empathy gap at DDS. He has a modest proposal:

Here's a novel solution that might have an immediate impact on how DDS medical consultants rate the limitations of claimants: require them all to keep fifty pound dumbbells beside their desks and each time they consider handing out a medium rfc, require them to lift it just once. Each time they perform this action and feel the discomfort that comes from lifting fifty pounds, they can then consider the effect this amount of weight might have on a claimant with chronic lower back pain. And, just perhaps, their ratings of cases might begin to approach a state closer to reality. Because, presently, it is doubtful, at best, that many of these doctors have any real clue as to what fifty pounds really is, or feels like.

It certainly appears that there is little awareness among the disability examinerati of how heavy 50 pounds is, and what it would be like to lift and carry 50 pounds for up to 2 hours each workday, 5 days a week. 

So what weighs 50 pounds? A 50 pound weight, for starters. That old 25" color tv gathering dust in the basement weighs about 50 pounds. A medium-sized dog can weigh 50 pounds. What else weighs 50 pounds?