If you have a medical condition that keeps you from working as a cashier for at least one year, you may be entitled to Social Security disability benefits. You'll need to show that you're legally eligible to receive one of the two benefits offered (SSDI or SSI), and that you fit the agency's medical definition of disability—either by meeting a listed impairment or showing that you can't work as a cashier or at any other job.
A key step in the disability determination process involves deciding whether you still can do the physical and mental duties of your previous jobs. Social Security evaluates your residual functional capacity (RFC) to determine what job duties you can still do and which ones you can no longer do, and compares those limitations with the demands of your past work.
If Social Security decides that you're capable of performing your past jobs, your application for disability benefits will be denied. So it's important that the agency has a full and accurate picture of the strength requirements (called the exertional level) and the mental demands (the skill level) of each job you've performed. Without enough information, Social Security might mistakenly find that you can return to a job you never actually did—or that you can do a new job with skills you never actually learned.
Social Security reviews your medical records, functional limitations, and self-reported daily activities to assess your RFC. Any restrictions that are supported by evidence will be included in your RFC—for example, limitations on:
The agency doesn't expect you to perform jobs that are outside the scope of your RFC. Because cashier positions tend to require a combination of physical exertion and public interaction, restrictions in your RFC that limit those activities are likely to rule out your past work (and may eliminate all other jobs as well). If you can't work as a cashier and Social Security doesn't think you can do any other work, you'll be awarded disability benefits.
Social Security categorizes jobs using a Department of Labor publication called the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT). The DOT contains descriptions for almost every job performed in the United States. Each job is assigned a specific nine-digit number called a DOT code, and each DOT code has a description of the physical and mental duties required to perform the job.
Several different DOT codes exist for cashier positions, ranging from sedentary (mostly sit-down jobs with minor lifting and carrying of objects) to light (sit/stand jobs with modest lifting and carrying requirements), and from unskilled (involving simple, routine tasks) to skilled (requiring complex tasks). Below are a few of the most commonly used DOT codes for cashier positions.
While it's not your responsibility to match your past work with the correct DOT code—that's the role of a vocational expert—you can reduce the odds that your jobs will be incorrectly classified by thoroughly filling out your work history report (Form SSA-3369-BK). The vocational expert relies on your work history report to assign the proper DOT codes to your past jobs, and administrative law judges rely on vocational experts to help decide whether you can work.
Disability applicants 50 years of age or older should be especially attentive in making sure their cashier position is correctly classified. That's because, under the medical-vocational grid rules, Social Security will consider your age, education, and work experience to determine if you've acquired any transferable skills that you could use at another job.
If you can't do your past work and don't know how to do other jobs (or aren't expected to learn), the agency can find you disabled using the grid rules, even if you're physically capable of less strenuous work. But if your jobs aren't classified properly, Social Security could mistakenly think you have transferable skills when you actually don't, or that you could physically perform your past work when that job should be ruled out by the restrictions in your RFC.
As you can see by the above example, having the right DOT code for your cashier job can make or break your case. By avoiding vague descriptions in your work history report, your application has a better chance of being approved at the initial or reconsideration stage, rather than after a lengthy wait for a disability hearing.
The grid rules generally don't apply to people younger than 50 years old or who have transferable skills, no matter what age. But you can still get benefits without using the grid rules if you can show that your RFC contains enough restrictions to rule out all work.
Generally, Social Security will need to see that you can't perform even the simplest, sit-down jobs. Examples of limitations in your RFC that could eliminate these jobs include:
For more information on restrictions in your RFC that can get you approved for disability, see our article on physical and mental limitations that prevent all work.
While you're not required to have a lawyer at any stage of the disability determination process, an experienced attorney can be very useful to help correctly classify your past work. Your attorney will understand how to cross-examine vocational experts, know which grid rules might apply, and obtain medical evidence that can affect skill transferability.
Updated January 23, 2024