To qualify for disability benefits, you must prove that your medical condition prevents you from doing substantial work on a continuous and sustained basis. One way you can show this is to prove that your medical condition has reduced your productivity by at least 15% of the acceptable level. This works because most vocational experts (VEs), the people hired by Social Security to testify as to your work ability, would conclude that a reduction of this magnitude would make you unemployable. (For more information on VEs, see our article on why the vocational expert's testimony is important.)
The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses the terms "concentration, persistence, and pace" to describe a person's ability to focus well enough to do his or her work in a normal amount of time. People with disabilities frequently experience trouble with concentration, persistence, and/or pace because of the mental symptoms, such as pain and fatigue, related to their medical condition. These symptoms can be a direct result of the impairment, or can stem from medications required to treat the impairment. Significant problems with concentration, persistence, and pace invariably affect productivity; accordingly, if you prove your productivity would be reduced by at least 15% of the normal rate, you will most likely be approved.
Here are some examples:
Side effects from medication can also interfere with your productivity. If your medication causes significant side effects, you must report them to your doctor. And for disability purposes, you must make an effort to find alternative medications with fewer side effects; otherwise, the SSA may conclude that the side effects of your medication are preventable and will disregard how they affect you.
Here is an example of where a claimant was approved based on how her medication impacted her work productivity.
For more information on how non-exertional limitations like fatigue, the inability to keep up, and the inability to focus can affect your claim for disability, see our article on combining exertional and non-exertional limitations.
Disabilities often result in frequent absenteeism from the workplace. Missed work may be due to the need to see doctors or attend therapies, or because of the symptoms of the medical condition itself cause one to take sick days or even be hospitalized. If your disability leads to an absenteeism rate of 10% or more (about two days per month for most workers), the SSA will likely approve your claim for disability.
Proving that your disability reduces your workplace efficiency by at least 15% can be very difficult; however, it can be an important tactic to help win your claim. You should contact an experienced disability attorney to discuss your case and see if this is a good option to help you win your claim. To contact a disability attorney in your area, visit our disability attorney locator page.