The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Committee on Functional Assessment for Adults with Disabilities held its second meeting yesterday, February 26, 2018 focused on the functional assessment of physical and mental abilities relevant to work requirements under the Social Security disability programs. NOSSCR’s Executive Director Barbara Silverstone was invited to speak from the stakeholder’s perspective, alongside Kevin Liebkemann, Chief Counsel for Disability Rights at the Legal Services of New Jersey; Kate Lang, Senior Staff Attorney at Justice in Aging; and Marty Ford, Senior Executive Officer of Public Policy at The Arc.
This meeting was one of a series in a study requested by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to understand essential functional abilities relevant to the occupational data gathered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in its new Occupational Information System. The stakeholder representatives explained that a person may often be able to perform certain job duties, but not on a consistent basis due to physical and/or mental limitations that prevent the individual from working full-time on a regular and continuing basis. They further explained that some factors SSA adjudicators consider when determining whether someone is disabled under SSA’s strict definition, such as activities of daily living (ADLs), are not accurate indicators of a person’s ability to work.
Ms. Silverstone explained that “The critical difference between activities of daily living and activities in a full-time job are that a person has more flexibility in scheduling, can get help from other persons … and is not held to a minimum standard of performance as would be by an employer.” Further, she emphasized that SSA must consider an individual’s residual functional capacity over time, explaining “when determining whether an individual with cognitive impairments can perform the work activities of a job, it is not only the specific work requirements that must be considered but rather an overall assessment of the ability to perform the job requirements on a full-time basis, day in and day out, with contact with both supervisors and co-workers.”