Can't Work In My Old Job, How Does Social Security Disability Consider This?

Social Security will consider what you did in your past job and whether you have the physical and mental capacity to return to that job. If you do not, they will consider if you not only possess the functional capacity, but also the necessary skills and education, given your age, to do some type of other work.

If, in addition to being unable to return to your past work, you also lack the ability to do some type of other work (based on an evaluation of your medical and vocational records), you will be approved for disability.

Social Security Disability is really all about your residual functional capacity (remaining work capacity) and whether it is sufficient enough to engage in work activity. To arrive at this determination, Social Security Disability examiners first determine what you are able to do in spite of the limitations of your disabling impairment. They do this by obtaining your medical records and obtaining questionnaires completed by you and your third party contact person.

The third party contact person is the person you named on your disability application as someone who knows you and about your disability, other than yourself or your doctor. Generally, this person is a friend or family member but it could be anyone who is familiar with your disability and how it affects you.

Once the disability examiner determines what your limitations are, they can determine what your residual functional capacity (the physical and mental activities you are able to do when you consider the limitations of your condition) is. So how does residual functional capacity and past work figure into the Social Security Disability evaluation process?

Social Security Disability examiners must determine if you are able to do any of your past relevant work (any job you had for three months or more, in which you earned an amount considered to be substantial gainful activity, and for which you had sufficent time to learn the duties of the job) in order to decide if your disabling condition does not meet or equal a Social Security Disability impairment listing (in the Social Security Disability list of impairments, also known as the blue book).

If the disability examiner finds that you can perform a past relevant job, your disability claim will be denied. However, if the disability examiner determines that you cannot work in your old job, or any of your old jobs, they have to consider if you are able to any other kind of work. At this point, the disability examiner considers your age, education, residual functional capacity, and the job skills of your past work while making their disability determination. If the disability examiner finds that you are unable to perform any other type of work, you may be able to receive disability benefits through a medical vocational allowance.

This is why it is very important for you to complete any work questionnaire thoroughly. You should describe your jobs as you performed them and you should not minimize the requirements of those jobs. Remember, your description of your past work may help a disability examiner determine that you are unable to perform past work and that would move you disability claim forward to the next level of the evaluation process. It may also help the disability examiner determine that the skills you have acquired from your past work are not transferable to any other type of work further improving your chances of being approved for disability.

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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