What Does Social Security Disability and SSI Include As Your Past Work?

The Social Security definition of past relevant work is any work that you have done in the past fifteen years that was performed at the SGA, or substantial gainful activity level, that you worked at for at least three months, and during which you had time to learn the job. When making their disability decision, Social Security can include as past relevant work any job that satisfies this criteria and which lasted three months or more.

When a disability examiner determines whether or not you are able to perform any of your past relevant work, they generally ask you to complete a detailed work history that includes all the job requirements for the job as you performed them. Disability examiners may use in-house vocational experts or other resources such as the "Dictionary of Occupational Titles" published by the Department of Labor to provide vocational input and evidence for your case.

Vocational evidence may help the disability examiner evaluate the accuracy of your description of your past work. Keep in mind that disability examiners are going to try to make their decision based upon the job as it is performed in the national economy; however an administrative law judge may give more weight to your description of your job.

Sometimes, vocational evidence helps an individual win their disability benefits and sometimes it does not. If you are asked to describe your past work, you should describe it as you performed it. Be sure to give complete and thorough answers to questions about the mental and physical requirements and your ability to perform them. It may mean the difference between being approved or denied disability benefits.

If you are found capable of working a past job, your disability claim will be denied. If the disability examiner is able to determine that you are not able to perform any past work, they have to determine if you are able to do any other kind of work when you consider the limitations of your disablings conditions, your education, the transferability of your job skills, and your age. If they find that you cannot do any other type of work you may be eligible for disability benefits. The jobs included in your past work and your ability to perform the demands the work are integral to the disability determinations process.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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