How to file for disability, Filing for SSI
Disability Requirements, Disability Status
How long is the wait?, Disability Application
The Social Security List of Impairments
Qualifying for Disability, Mental Disability
Disability Lawyer Info, Disability Back Pay

How important is your work history when applying for disability?

Most people who apply for SSD or SSI have no trouble demonstrating that they have some sort of severe impairment, but many are surprised when, despite solid medical documentation, they are denied disability benefits.

In these cases, when a claimant has been denied on the basis of their presumed ability to return to their past employment or their presumed ability to transition to some new type of other work, it is the work history that has played a major role in the disability examiner’s decision to deny the claim.

A claimant's work history plays a large role in the adjudication of adult disability claims. However, in all types of disability claims, medical records, and what they show or fail to show, play an even larger role.

Disability examiners review medical records to establish the existence of a severe impairment and also to determine the claimant’s residual functional capacity (RFC), or those activities he or she can still do in spite of the impairment. The RFC rating is then matched against jobs the claimant has held within the past 15 years (Social Security calls this the “relevant period”) to decide if the claimant could possibly return to one of these positions.

If the disability examiner determines that the claimant’s impairment prevents him from performing his current job or any past job, he then considers the claimant’s work skills, level of education, age, and physical or mental limitations to determine if there is any other job available, anywhere in the country, that the claimant could perform given this vocational profile.

Unable to do past work, but still denied

Not surprisingly, then, even when claimants have been found to be unable to return to their past work, they are often denied on the basis of being able to perform some other type of work.

How important is providing accurate and detailed information regarding one's work history when filing for disability? Very. Disability examiners rely on the description of past jobs offered by applicants to categorize these jobs. Obviously, if the descriptions are lacking, the individual's past work may be incorrectly categorized, which could have an impact as to the outcome of a decision. For this reason, it is important to provide not only a job description that includes one's past job title, but also a description of what was done on the job.

Additionally, providing contact information for one's past employers can sometimes assist the examiner in determining exactly what the job was and what it entailed, physically and/or mentally. It is not unheard of for disability examiners to contact former employers to flesh out the details of what was done on a particular job.

Essential Questions

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Related pages:

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These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

Can you get temporary Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

Permanent Social Security Disability

What is the difference between Social Security Disability and SSI?

Who is eligible for SSI disability?

Can I Be Eligible For SSI And Social Security Disability At The Same Time?

What makes a person eligible to receive disability benefits?

Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?

For the sake of clarity, SSDRC.com is not the Social Security Administration, nor is it associated or affiliated with SSA. This site is a personal, private website that is published, edited, and maintained by former caseworker and former disability claims examiner, Tim Moore, who was interviewed by the New York Times on the topic of Social Security Disability and SSI benefits in an article entitled "The Disability Mess" and also by the Los Angeles Times on the subject of political attempts to weaken the Social Security Disability system.

The goal of the site is to provide information about how Social Security Disability and SSI work, the idea being that qualified information may help claimants pursue their claims and appeals, potentially avoiding time-consuming mistakes. If you find the information on this site helpful and believe it would be helpful to others, feel free to share links to its homepage or other pages on website resource pages, blogs, or social media. Copying of this material, however, is prohibited.

To learn more about the author, please visit the SSDRC.com homepage and view the "about this site" link near the bottom of the page.