What does social security mean by other work?

If you ability to do the work you have done in the past, as well as any other type of work that your education and training might make you a candidate for, with consideration to other factors such as your age and residual functional capacity (your RFC is your level of functioning, which is rated after a review of your medical evidence).

When a disability examiner (examiners make decisions on every disability application that is filed at a social security office) reviews a claim, two of their chief goals are to determine A) what a claimant is still capable of doing (i.e. residual functional capacity) and B) whether or not they can still work.

If a claimant does have a severe medical condition, then the disability examiner will compare that individual's remaining physical and mental capabilities to the demands and requirements of their past work (which can potentially include all the jobs that they had in the past fifteen years, known as the relevant work period).

If the examiner finds that the claimant cannot go back to their past work work (which is often the case), then the examiner will then set about the task of deciding whether or not the claimant can do something else. "Something else" is what the social security administration refers to as other work.

What is other work as far as Social Security Disability and SSI are concerned? This is actually where the social security administration's disability evaluation process becomes more hazy. Other work can include many types of jobs that a claimant has never worked, and which might not even exist where a claimant lives.

However, other work must be work for which the mental and physical requirements of the job do not exceed the residual functional capacity of the claimant.

For instance, if the claimant is restricted to a sendentary RFC rating (meaning they can lift no more than ten pounds; essentially a desk-bound job where standing and walking are only required occasionally as needed to carry out the functions of the job), then social security is not allowed to conclude that the claimant is capable of performing light duty or medium duty jobs.

How does this play out in the determination process? In this example, for a claimant to be denied disability benefits, a disability examiner would need to show that there are other jobs available to the claimant that only have sedentary requirements and which the claimant could be expected to do based on A) how old they are, B) their work experience and the skills they have, C) how far they've gone in school (level of education does play a role in the disability determination process), and D) what their physical and mental capabilities are.

Very many disability claims are denied on the basis of a claimant being able to perform some type of other work. Such denials occur when the claimant has never performed such work and even when the jobs cited by the social security administration (allegedly, that the claimant is capable of doing) do not even exist in the claimant's immediate area, or even within their state of residence.

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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