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During an ordinary conversation with a friend or relative, you may use the words “limitation” or “restriction” to describe your medical condition without giving much thought to the difference between the two. However, when the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses the terms limitation and restriction, the agency has precise meanings for each of the words.

The SSA Definitions

According to the SSA:

  • A limitation is an activity level beyond which you are physically unable to perform on a sustained basis. That doesn’t mean you can never do the activity for a short amount of time. You may be able to walk a few steps, for example, but you may not be able to walk enough on a sustained basis to get your work done.
  • A restriction is an activity level beyond which it would be medically ill-advised for you to perform on a sustained basis. Again, this doesn’t mean you can’t do an activity for a short amount of time. Instead, it means that it could harm your health to do the activity on a sustained basis.

While the terms have distinct meanings, they are both relevant to determining whether a Social Security disability applicant can work.

They Are Both Relevant to Determining Residual Functional Capacity

Both limitations and restrictions are considered when your residual functional capacity is determined. Your residual functional capacity is an assessment of your ability to do sustained work (8 hours a day, 5 days a week) despite your limitations and restrictions.

For this reason, it is important to make sure that all of your limitations and restrictions are fully explained and supported with appropriate documentation when you submit your Social Security disability application.  For more information about filing a complete Social Security disability application, please start a live chat with us today.

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Morgan & Weisbrod LLP

by Paul B. Burkhalter
Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.


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