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How Exertional Limitations and Nonexertional Limitations Affect Your Disability Claim

  • Published: March 7, 2019

You may have one or more types of limitations which make it difficult or impossible to perform the activities necessary for your job. If your disability restricts your physical movement or ability to sit, stand, or carry objects, it is an exertional limitation. The inability to perform functions such as typing or writing are nonexertional limitations.

The insurance company will examine what you can do and determine if there’s a job you can perform. They will also look at activities you cannot perform and will rule out the jobs you are unable to do. The information culminating from the review of both types of limitations is called a residual functional capacity (RFC) report.

To determine whether you qualify for long-term disability benefits, the insurance company will compare the RFC to the activities needed for your job or other jobs. If your residual functional capacity is lower than what’s required for your job, you are considered disabled.

What Is an Exertional Limitation?

These limitations are related to strength. It is literally how much strength you can “exert” in the performance of your job. Exertional limitations are activities such as:

  • Sitting
  • Standing
  • Walking
  • Lifting/carrying
  • Pushing/pulling

Exertional Levels for Job Classification

The exertional limitations listed above align closely with the U.S. Department of Labor’s job classifications, which are sedentary, light, medium, heavy, and very heavy. Often an insurance company consults a Department of Labor publication called the Dictionary of Occupational Titles to find out the exertion level a particular job requires. Here are the classifications in more detail.


These jobs require the ability to lift or carry items under 10 pounds and materials such as files, books, or small tools. You would sit for 6 of the 8 hours in the work day and stand or walk around for the other 2 hours.


Light exertion requires lifting under 20 pounds at a time but frequently carrying items up to 10 pounds. The ratio of sitting and standing or walking for this type of work is 6 hours standing or walking in an 8 hour day.


The maximum weight that can be lifted increases to 50 pounds at a time and frequently requires lifting or carrying items up to 25 pounds. This type of work requires the same 6 hours of standing or walking in an 8 hour day as the light level of work.


Work considered heavy involves lifting up to 100 pounds and frequently requires lifting or carrying items up to 50 pounds. The job requires 6 hours of standing or walking out of each 8-hour day.

If you are unable to meet the exertional needs for the type of work you do, you are considered disabled for that position.

What Are Nonexertional Limitations?

Nonexertional limitations measure functionality rather than strength. Here are the main classifications of nonexertional limitations.


If it would be difficult to type, write, or pick up small objects, you have manipulative limitations. Involuntary shaking in your hands would also fall under this category.


These limitations are related to cognitive abilities. Mental illness, lack of concentration, or memory loss are examples of mental limitations. If you have pain that distracts you from being able to work or if you suffer side effects from medication, they would also be considered mental limitations.


You may have difficulty bending, kneeling, turning your head, or twisting. You may need to sit in a particular position, for example, with your leg elevated.


Sensitivity to dust, noise, fumes, and temperature changes are examples of environmental disabilities. They can be severe enough for you to be considered disabled when you’re exposed to these environmental factors.


Sensory limitations involve your ability to see, hear, or feel and may hamper your ability to communicate with others. It may also make it more dangerous for you to be around certain work hazards.

If you can’t perform these nonexertional functions you are considered disabled for that type of work.

What If I Have a Combination of Limitations?

It is possible for you to have both types of limitations. In that case, your insurance company will analyze how each limitation affects your ability to work. It is very important to carefully detail both exertional limitations and nonexertional limitations in your disability claim.

If your insurance policy considers whether or not you can do not only your previous work but any type of work, an accurate representation of your abilities is critical.

Speak to a Long-Term Disability Attorney Who Can Help

Our long-term disability attorneys understand the nuances of RFCs, exertional limitations, and nonexertional limitations and the way they impact your disability claim. Contact CJ Henry Law Firm, PLLC today to learn more.

Claudeth Henry

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