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Certain mental abilities are necessary to do any type of work, even work that does not require skills. Skills have a specific definition that the SSA uses when they are deciding if you can work.

The SSA states that a skill is knowledge of a work activity which requires the exercise of  judgment that goes beyond the carrying out of simple job duties. You can only learn a skill through performance of a job which is above the unskilled level. Learning a basic skill requires more than 30 days on the job.

Additionally, a skill is practical and familiar knowledge of how to do certain elements of a job. That knowledge, combined with the ability to apply them at work in a proper manner, is a skill. This includes activities like making precise measurements, reading blueprints, and setting up and operating machinery. A skill gives a person a special advantage over unskilled workers in the labor market. Learn more information about job skills.


Skills are not gained by doing unskilled jobs. Additionally, even if you have skills, your skills can become too old to be useful. For example, you may learn computer skills during high school or even go to a special school to learn them. However, if you don’t use your skills on the job and keep up to date with them, then they won’t help you get a new job.

Similarly, some skills cannot be used to an important degree in any other jobs. For example, being a coal miner is a highly skilled job. But, those specific skills are only used in a mine or a job in a mining setting. Coal miners do not have the skills, for example, to become a secretary. To be useful in the job market, skills need to transfer to other jobs. If they don’t transfer, then that fact might prove you cannot work.


If you were trying to figure out what an unskilled job is, then an example might be the job of parking lot attendant.  This job, for instance, does not require you to go to school. At work, you sit or stand in a booth and take a ticket or give a ticket to the customer. Also, jobs like this usually do not even require you to give change to the customer. Even so, these jobs still require mental abilities that can be impacted by the symptoms of anxiety or other mental conditions.

Another job, for example, that is does not require skills is working at the dollar store. Because everything is one dollar, you do not have to have skills to remember store codes. Likewise, you do not have to do complex math to give change back. Compare that cashier job to the job of cashier at a large grocery store. They might have to remember hundreds of cash register codes. Or, for example, they might have to do more complex math. Likewise, they might have to resolve customer complaints. Therefore, even though some jobs look the same, their skill level might be quite different.

mental abilities


There are certain mental abilities you must have in order to perform unskilled work. Unskilled work is the easiest form of work. For example, it is work that does not require much attention. It is also work that does not require you go to school.

Likewise, it does not require you to learn work skills on the job. If you received a denial from the SSA, then unskilled work is usually the type of work the SSA will claim you can do. A job doesn’t require skills if you are able to learn your job duties in a matter of weeks.

SSA’s internal rules define the important factors involved in knowing whether you can perform unskilled work. These factors are true in whatever state you live. You can be working in Utah, Nevada, California, or Idaho. The rules are the same for work, no matter where you live. The mental factors are found in the Social Security Program Operations Manual, which states:

Mental Abilities Critical for Performing Unskilled Work

The SSA has a list of elements that show what is important for performing unskilled work. The following list shows that even simple work requires the ability to maintain attention. If you have a mental condition that prevents you from focusing for two hours periods, then you cannot do unskilled work. Even pain may can keep you from doing unskilled work, because it prevents concentration.

For example, you must show the ability to:

a. remember work procedures (locations are not critical).

b. understand and remember very short and simple instructions.

c. carry out very short and simple instructions.

d. maintain attention for extended periods of 2-hour segments.

e. maintain regular attendance and be punctual within customary tolerances. Maintaining a schedule is not critical.

f. sustain an ordinary routine without special supervision.

g. work in coordination with others without being (unduly) distracted by them.

h. make simple work decisions.

i. complete a normal workday and work week without being interrupted by mental symptoms and perform at a consistent pace without an unreasonable number and length of rest periods.

j. ask simple questions or request assistance.

k. accept instructions and respond appropriately to criticism from your boss.

l. get along with other workers or peers without (unduly) distracting them or showing behavioral extremes.

m. respond appropriately to changes in a (routine) work setting.

n. be aware of normal hazards and take appropriate precautions.


As noted earlier, each one of these elements is necessary to perform unskilled work. If you cannot get along with other workers, you cannot work at any job. Likewise, if you cannot complete an 8 hour work day without your mental issues getting in the way of your job duties, you cannot work. Another big issue on the job is keeping other workers from doing their job. If you do this, you will be fired.

The same thing will happen if you cannot complete a normal work day due to mental illness. You will be fired. It is impossible to work if you cannot complete your shift. The boss can always hire someone else to fill your position if you don’t make it through an eight hour work day.

If your mental illness makes it impossible for your to do the above tasks, then you deserve to be paid benefits. Therefore, you need to file an application for benefits on the Social Security website.  It is important to hire a lawyer to help you file your application. Additionally, your lawyer can help you file an appeal if the SSA denies you benefits. Your future is at stake. You need monthly benefits to help you and your family pay the bills. This is an important decision. You need to choose a lawyer with experience. But, not just any legal experience. Choose a lawyer who is an expert in SSD benefits.


We will use our skills to help you through the Social Security process. It is our goal to win your benefits for you. But, it also our goal to make the legal process easier for you. There is no pressure to become a client if you call. You can simply ask questions. We will answer and if we can’t help you, we will refer you to someone who can.

It doesn’t cost you any upfront money to hire us. Why? Because you only pay us an attorney fee if we win your case. This means if we win, you pay us out of your back benefit. If you do not win, you do not pay an attorney fee. The attorney fee is 25% of your back benefit. Also, the fee is capped at $7200 by the SSA. You do not pay more than the cap. And, 25% is usually less than the cap. You pay which ever amount is less between the cap and 25% of your back benefit. And, you pay only if we win your benefits.

If there are costs in your case, then you pay those costs. But the costs are usually less than $100. Usually the only cost is to pay for a copy of your medical records. You owe costs whether we win or lose.

To hire most lawyers, you have to pay upfront. We don’t work like that. You don’t have a job. So, how can you pay upfront? The only way for you to pay us is for us to win your case. So, that is our goal. Contact us today for help in your SSDI and SSI case. Put our legal experience to work for you.


You do not have to obtain SSD benefits on your own. If you cannot work due to any medical condition, then we can help file your SSD application. Also, we can help you through each of the appeal stages of the Social Security process.

When you leave that up to us, you can focus on your health. Our attorneys and staff can:

If you file your SSD application online at Social Security’s website, then you have 6 months to complete the application. It is best to complete the application quickly. You don’t want to run out the 6 month time frame.


At Cannon Disability Law, we can help you apply for benefits. Also, we can help you appeal a denial from the SSA. Likewise, we can represent you in court.  If necessary, we can also appeal your case to the Appeals Council. Additionally, we can file an appeal in Federal Court.

Also, we bring over 60 years of legal experience to your case. For instance, Dianna Cannon has been helping her clients win benefits for over thirty years. Brett Bunkall and Andria Summers also have many years of legal experience. You can learn more on our About Us page. Together, we have won over 20,000 Social Security cases. You can trust that we will do everything we can to win your SSD and SSI benefits.


Our law firm has the experience you need to win benefits. If your mental condition impacts your mental abilities, then you should file for benefits. For example, our attorneys have been helping people win Social Security benefits for 30 years. We have won over 20,000 SSDI & SSI cases during that time. This amounts to over $100 million in ongoing and past due SSD benefits for our clients.

We are experts at winning Social Security  benefits. Think about it. You do not want to hope that your lawyer knows what they are doing. Trust your future income to a law firm who wins SSD cases every day.

If you need help with a SSD or SSI benefits, then contact us today. Information about Utah SSD benefits can be found on this website under Utah SSD Information. Likewise, we have Nevada SSD benefits information. Also, learn more about California SSD benefit information.

You should contact Cannon Disability Law. We can help you win SSDI and SSI benefits. Additionally, we can help you appeal a denial of benefits from the SSA. Also, we appeal cases to the Appeals Council and to Federal Court. Contact us today. We will look at your case for free. If you need help winning benefits due to a lack of mental abilities, then we are the best law firm that you can hire.

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