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Assessment of Work-Related Functional Abilities Is Important In Disability Determination

  May 9, 2019 | By The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

WASHINGTON – Assessments of a person’s ability to function at work provide important information for disability determinations, and many validated tests are available to assess work-related physical and mental functions. However, because no single test of function is likely to provide all of the information needed to evaluate an individual’s ability to work, it is important to consider information from multiple sources, including health records, functional assessments, and standardized reports from the applicant and relevant health care providers, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

The report, Functional Assessment for Adults with Disabilities, contains findings and conclusions regarding the collection of health data and the assessment of functional abilities that can help determine an individual’s eligibility for Social Security disability benefits.

The U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) provides disability benefits through the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. As of December 2017, SSDI had approximately 10.4 million beneficiaries and SSI had about 7.1 million recipients who are blind or otherwise disabled.

While an individual may be able to perform certain physical demands of a job, such as lifting or standing, during a single performance-based assessment, that does not mean he or she can do so repeatedly or continuously throughout the work week. An individual’s capacity to work may also be adversely affected if he or she experiences comorbid physical-mental health conditions or medication side effects. For example, common side effects for treatment of pain — including nausea and difficulty concentrating — can further impair a person’s ability to function at work.

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