Social Security Disability and the Job that You Worked

When you file for disability in either the Social Security Disability or SSI program, you will be asked to provide a record of your work history. Why is this done? The reason is simple. Social security will use your work history information, along with your medical history information, to determine if you have the ability to go back to work, either at a job you have done in the past, or doing some other type of work.

Is the Social Security Disability program able to pull up a list of your jobs, or are they completely dependent on you, the claimant, to supply your work history information? Most people would be surprised to learn that, when a disability claim is being on, the disability examiner (the person who makes the decision on your case) is entirely dependent on the information that has been supplied by the claimant.

Not surprisingly, many individuals who file for disability think that their claim will be decided completely on the basis of their medical records. But this is only half correct. The decision is actually made on the basis of work records and medical records. Why? Because Social Security Disability and SSI disability decisions are made on the basis of whether or not you have a severe impairment that will last at least 12 months and which will prevent you from working and earning a substantial and gainful income.

In determining whether or not a person can work, the decision-maker on a disability claim (either a disability examiner or, at the hearing level, a federal judge) will compare their remaining functional capabilities to the demands of their past work (jobs they may have worked in the fifteen years prior to becoming disabled) and the demands of certain types of other work that they might be able to do. If they no longer have the functional capacity to do their past work or some form of other work, the determination will be made that they are disabled.

How does social security decide what an individual's remaining functional capabilities are? By reading and evaluating their medical records. In doing this, the disability examiner or judge can give the claimant what is known as an RFC, or residual functional capacity, rating. This is a rating of what they can still do, and no longer do (for example, an RFC rating will explain how long a person can sit or stand, how much they can lift, whether or not they can stoop or crouch, etc).

The RFC rating is measured against the functional requirements of the claimant's past jobs and other jobs that they might be able to perform. If their functional capabilities are less than the requirements of these jobs, they will be detemined to be disabled.

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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