How Do the RRB and SSA View Multiple Impairments?
A high percentage of Railroad Retirement disability and Social Security disability claims involve a combination of impairments-where none of the conditions alone prevents the claimant from working but the combination does render the claimant unable to work. Until 1984, Social Security would not even consider whether a claimant who had “non-severe” impairments might be disabled by the combined effect of those impairments. Recognizing the problem, in 1984 Congress passed a law requiring Social Security to consider the combined effect of all the claimant’s impairments without regard to whether, considered separately, they would be severe enough to entitle the claimant to Social Security disability benefits.
To prevail in a claim for benefits, a claimant must present evidence of the cumulative effect of the impairments on his ability to work. This evidence could be used to show that the claimant is disabled in two different ways: To show that the claimant’s multiple impairments are equal in severity to the SSA Listing (Step 3 in the SSA’s evaluation), or to show that the claimant’s multiple impairments reduce his residual functional capacity such that, considering his age, education, and other factors, that patient is unable to perform the requirements of other work for which he is suited.