Torn rotator cuffs and your Social Security disability benefits. A torn rotator cuff can not only be painful, but can limit your ability to lift, push, pull, and reach. Your capacity to work can be greatly diminished, especially when the arm affected is your dominant upper extremity. It is hard to imagine there are many jobs where you would not be required to use your arms in some capacity to perform work tasks. The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes the limitations caused by a torn rotator cuff or other impairments that cause limitations to your upper extremities.
If you have experienced a torn rotator cuff, you don’t need any reminders that there is usually pain involved. Many of my clients complain of a dull aching pain when not using their arm, and a sharp, intense pain when in use. Once you have tried more conservative treatments, such as medications, injections, and physical therapy, a qualified physician may recommend surgical procedures to alleviate the symptoms you experience. These can include an open repair or arthroscopic repair. Unfortunately, not all procedures are successful for all patients, and you may find that your symptoms still exist.
I find many of my disability cases hinge on a client’s remaining Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). An RFC is the maximum ability to perform functions (such as standing, sitting, or lifting) that someone can do when all their limitations are considered. If you cannot perform your past work due to these limitations, the SSA will try to determine whether you can perform other jobs in the economy that require less exertional effort. If it is determined there are not a substantial number of jobs available that you can perform, you may be found disabled and be entitled to Social Security disability benefits. Other factors such as your age, education, and transferrable skills from past work can also come into play when making this determination. When you have decreased functioning in the use of your upper extremities, the effect on your RFC needs to be presented at your hearing.
A competent disability attorney can assist you in your claim by reviewing your medical record and pointing out your limitations. Your hearing is your chance to let the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) know what your limitations are and how they affect you on a daily basis. A good attorney or representative can present this information at your hearing and give you your best chance of success.