When Social Security evaluates a person's claim for disability, they generally focus on specific limitations. These include things like how much can the person lift or carry? How long can the person sit or stand or walk? These limitations combine to form what Social Security calls a residual functional capacity (RFC). While this is important, it can obscure a more basic question: how often is this person going to be absent from work?
One Or Two Days Per Month Maximum
Needless to say, an employee has to get to work when scheduled with few exceptions. If a person will miss days at work randomly due to medical
conditions, that person's employment will soon be in trouble. Vocational experts generally say that an employee cannot miss more than one or two days per month and keep her job. For those people who do unskilled work, employers have the least tolerance for missed days. This makes sense in that a company can hire a replacement worker for unskilled jobs and have them on duty immediately. If you are highly skilled, chances are your employer will have more latitude about keeping you around despite being MIA on occasion.
Even Problems That Strike Infrequently Can Be Disabling
When you consider how little time most people can miss from work without their employer firing them, it is clear that it does not take a catastrophic medical condition to be disabled. There are conditions which strike only periodically but unpredictably. Consider, for example, epilepsy. A person with seizures could be in great health almost all the time. But, when hit by a seizure, that person could lose one or two work days. In a similar vein are
migraines. A migraine sufferer could be an Olympic athlete. But, several times a month she will be forced to lie down in a dark and silent room for multiple days. Consider, too, all the gastrointestinal disorders. Those people who have IBS, or Crohn's or gastroparesis can be just fine most of the time. But, when these problems flare up, these people are certain to miss more than one or two days of work each month.
Work If You Can, But If Not . . .
If you have a medical condition that troubles you only infrequently, you should explore applying for Social Security disability. If you are consistently missing as little as one day per month of work, Social Security may consider you disabled. That said, you are always better off working than not working. If your employer can accommodate your unplanned absences, that is ideal. If not, however, explore your options.
If you have questions about this or anything else, please let me know.