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Can I Get Social Security Disability if I Used to Work as a Chef?

Disability Benefits for Chefs

Chefs are in charge of the cooking staff in restaurants. Depending on the restaurant, their duties may include cooking, developing recipes, ensuring food quality and safety standards, overseeing other cooks, general kitchen management, payroll, and other administrative duties. Typically, larger, more exclusive restaurants will employ several chefs and the chefs will have a definite hierarchy. Smaller restaurants will have fewer chefs, with some having only one.

Typically, chefs are the most skilled workers in a restaurant kitchen. In some cases, they have worked their way up through the kitchen ranks, receiving on the job training. In other cases, a chef may have received formal training at a culinary arts institute. The amount of time it takes to become recognized as a chef varies depending on the restaurant or culinary institute, but in most cases, it is considered somewhat of an honor (in addition to being a position of authority and responsibility) amongst restaurant employees. There are roughly 108,000 chefs working in the United States today, and that number is expected to stay fairly level over the next ten years. Because chefs tend to work in higher end restaurants and are paid better than other restaurant workers, there tend to be fewer turnovers. Therefore, the competition for the better positions can be fierce.

To be a chef, you must be able to stand on your feet for long hours. You must also be able to use fine motor skills for many of the skills involved in preparing food (i.e., cutting, dicing, chopping, stirring, mixing). Additionally, most chefs must be able to interact appropriately with both subordinate employees and the public.

Chefs face all of the occupational hazards associated with working in a kitchen. In addition to food borne diseases, chefs face the risk of injury from knives and other kitchen utensils and appliances, and from cooking over open flame. Chefs also have to deal with the mental and emotional stress of working in a high pressure environment with other people for whom they are responsible. Occasionally, chefs also have to deal with the restaurant clientele, often when they are displeased or irate.

Any disability which affects the fine motor skills, the ability to stand for prolonged periods of time, or the ability to appropriately handle stressful situations can have a serious impact on your ability to continue working as a chef. If you have such a disabling condition which makes it impossible for you to continue working as a chef, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits.

Working with a Disability as a Chef

There are some disabilities which make it simply impossible to continue working as a chef. A chef must be able to work quickly, moving about a fast paced kitchen environment, while keeping track of several things at once mentally and overseeing others who are conducting much of the kitchen work.

To qualify for Social Security Disability benefits such as SSDI, you must be able to show that you can no longer reasonably be expected to continue working as a chef due to a medically verifiable cause. This can be an injury, a disease, or a mental condition, but it must be medically diagnosed and expected to last at least one year or to end in your death.

Additionally, you must be able to show that you are no longer capable of performing other types of work which you have done before or for which you could realistically be trained, given your level of education and age. Generally speaking, the older you are and the less education (outside of culinary training) you have, the better your chances of being approved for disability benefits.

That isn’t to say that you should not apply for disability benefits if you are young and disabled. It is to say, however, that you will need to prove that you are disabled significantly enough that you can’t be expected to retrain for some other kind of job which you could perform with your disability.

For a chef, a number of conditions are disabling which may not cause as much disruption for other workers. For example, because you deal with preparing food, many communicable diseases make it impossible to work as a chef. Injuries which affect your fine motor skills make it impossible to continue as a chef, but may not make it impossible to perform other kinds of work.

Filing for Disability as a Chef

There are several steps involved in the process of applying for Social Security disability benefits. If your initial claim is turned down, don’t let it worry you too much. As many as 70% of initial disability claims are rejected, and you have multiple opportunities to appeal this decision.

A Social Security Disability attorney can help you with your claims and appeals process. Claimants with a lawyer consistently have a better chance of having their claim accepted at all stages of the disability application process. For example, if you have a disability which makes it impossible to continue working in a kitchen because you can no longer use your fine motor skills to do the prep work which goes into preparing a meal, your Social Security lawyer will know how to put this information on your application for Social Security Disability benefits in verbiage that the SSA is most likely to accept.

If you would like more information about Social Security Disability or would like to speak with an experienced disability lawyer about your potential disability claim, simply submit the online disability evaluation provided.