What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?
How do you Win Benefits under Social Security Disability or SSI?
If I am determined disabled, how far back will Social Security pay benefits?
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition?
What Can I Do to Improve My Chances of Winning Disability Benefits
Common Mistakes after Receiving a Denial of Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits
How to File for Disability - Tips for Filing
If You Get Approved For SSDI Will You Also Get Medicare?
How much does a Social Security disability attorney get paid?
Social Security Disability SSI Criteria and the Evaluation Process
How long does it take to be approved for SSI or Social Security disability?
What do you Need to Prove to Qualify for Disability Benefits?
Social Security Disability SSI and Fibromyalgia
Social Security Disability SSI and Degenerative Disc Disease
Can I Qualify For Disability and Receive Benefits based on Depression?
Answers to questions about SSD and SSI disability
What Disabilities Qualify for SSI and Social Security Disability Benefits?
Social Security Disability Status
Social Security Disability Tips — how a claim gets worked on
Social Security Disability, SSI Disability - Terms, Definitions, Concepts
Social Security Disability, SSI, and Whether or Not a Person can Still Work
How to prove you are disabled
and win disability benefits
At the time of applying for disability, and often during the evaluation of the claim, the social security administration will inquire into the claimant's past work history. When this is done, SSA will be most concerned with jobs that it considers to be relevant. "Relevant" simply refers to jobs that were performed by the claimant in the fifteen year period prior to becoming disabled.
To be relevant and part of the consideration process, the job, however, must also be one in which the claimant was able to earn a substantial income and also one in which the claimant was able to learn the skills involved in doing the job (therefore, jobs worked for only a short period would not usually be considered relevant).
Once all the claimant's relevant past work is identified, the disability examiner will look up each job in a resource known as the Dictionary of Occupation Titles to learn what each job required. This would include both their physical and mental requirements. This information is then compared to the claimant's current functional limitations to see if the claimant still has the ability to return to one of their past jobs.
If the claimant's current limitations (as rated on physical and/or mental RFC forms by the disability examiner and the doctors with whom he works) are too restrictive, he will be judged to be incapable of doing his past work. However, the disability process does not end there.
Using information found in identifying the claimant's jobs in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, the disability examiner will be able to determine what job skills the claimant is expected to possess. This will allow the disability examiner to determine whether or not the claimant may have the ability to do some type of other work that they have not previously done.
Fortunately, for disability claimants, the decision that is made regarding their ability (or inability) to do some type of other work is not based solely on their work skills. It is also based on the claimant's age and how severe their condition is (reflected in their RFC assessments), as well as their level of education.
Claimants who are judged to be incapable of going back to a former job, and also incapable of switching to some type of other work will be awarded disability benefits. But it should be apparent to most claimants after reading this page that the decision on their disability application may be affected by how accurately the social security administration identifies their past jobs.
For this reason, it can be crucial for a claimant to provide accurate job titles, as well as full and detailed descriptions of the work performed on each job...to ensure that the job is properly identified in the DOT, or dictionary of occupational titles.
Improper identification of past jobs can lead a disability examiner or an administrative law judge to conclude that the claimant can go back to a former job that they no longer have the ability to adequately perform, or use skills that they do not actually have to take on some new type of employment.
Return to: SSDRC, or the Questions, Answers, Tips, and Advice page
Topics and Questions
SSD and SSI are Federal Programs
The title II Social Security Disability and title 16 SSI Disability programs operate under federal guidelines and, therefore, the program requirements--medical and non-medical--apply to all states:
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
Recent approval and denial statistics for various states can be viewed here:
Social Security Disability, SSI Approval and Denial Statistics by state
Special Section: Disability Lawyers and unnecessary claim denials