Overview of Disability

Disability Back Pay

Disability Requirements

Disability Applications

Disability Advice Tips

How long do cases take?

How to win Disability

SSD Mistakes to avoid

Disability for Mental

What if you get denied?

How to file Appeals

Disability through SSA

SSI Disability Benefits

Disability for Children

How do I qualify for it?

Working and Disability

Disability Award Notice

Disability Lawyer Q&A

Disability Conditions List

What is a disability?

Your Medical Evidence

Filing for your Disability

Disability Eligibility

SSD SSI Definitions

Recent Questions

SSDRC Disability Blog

Can Social Security Turn You Down If You Can Do Your Past Work?

Social Security disability is a total disability program in which the expectation is that you cannot be able to perform any kind of work at a substantial level.

The Social Security Administration uses a sequential evaluation process to determine if you are disabled according to the guidelines of the Social Security disability program. Social Security uses this process to make their all of their disability determinations; therefore, this system applies to both social security disability and SSI disability cases.

The first three steps of the evaluation process involve Step one: a determination as to whether you are performing substantial gainful activity. If you are gainfully employed, i.e. engaged in substantial gainful activity, then the process stops here and you are denied.

If you are not (gainfully employed), the case moves on to Step two. Step two involves determining if you have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment. This simply means that your condition must be verified by acceptable medical record documentation. If you do have a medically determinable impairment, your case moves on to the next level of the sequential evaluation process.

Step three involves determining if your impairment meets the criteria of an impairment listing. If you meet or equal the criteria of a Social Security disability impairment listing (in the Disability Evaluation handbook which is used by both disability examiners and administrative law judges and which is often referred to as the blue book, or the social security disability list of impairments), the sequential evaluation process stops here and your disability claim will be medically approved for disability benefits.

If you do not meet or equal an impairment listing, your disability claim will move to the final two steps of the sequential evaluation process. The last steps of the evaluation process involve an evaluation of your ability to work. Unfortunately, the vast majority of all Social Security disability determinations involve step four and five of the sequential evaluation process.

Step four of the sequential evaluation process evaluates your ability to perform any of your past relevant work. Social Security considers relevant work to be any work performed by you within the fifteen years prior to your filing for disability. You must have performed the job three months or more, had time to learn to do it (meaning you actually learned the duties or skills associated with the job), and the work had to be that in which you earned a substantial and gainful income.

How does the disability examiner determine whether or not you can return to your past work? Your medical evidence will be evaluated to determine what your current physical and/or mental limitations are. This is known as your RFC--residual functional capacity--rating. This rating is then compared to whatever the demands of your past jobs were (the information about your past jobs is obtained from something known as the DOT, or dictionary of occupational titles and this is why it is so very important that you include detailed descriptions of your past jobs, including job titles and work descriptions, when you file your disability claim).

If your current limitations are still within the range of what your past work required of you, then you may be denied for disability on the basis of being able to return to your past work.

However, if your current limitations would not allow you to perform the duties of your past work, your case will move on to Step 5 of the sequential evaluation process.

Step 5 is a determination of whether or not you can do some type of other work, based on factors such as your age, education, and transferrable or non-transferrable work skills. Many cases for which it is determined that a claimant cannot return to their past work are still denied on the basis of the claimant being able to perform some type of other work and it is at a disability hearing that the presence of a disability lawyer can be effectively used to counter the assertion that a person could actually find other work within their living area to switch to.

Return to:  Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions

Related pages:

How does Social Security Disability get Information about your past work?
What Does Social Security Disability and SSI Include As Your Past Work?
What does social security mean by past work?
Can Social Security Turn You Down If You Can Do Your Past Work?
Can I get Retroactive SSI Disability Benefits?
Why does a disability claim take so long and is it harder if I am under age 55?

Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:

Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI

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

Filing for disability - How to file for SSD or SSI and the Information that is needed by Social Security
How to Apply for Disability - What medical conditions can you apply and qualify for?
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?
How to Prove you are disabled and qualify to win disability benefits
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition or impairment?
Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes to Qualify for it and receive it
Social Security Disability SSI - Eligibility Requirements and Qualifications Criteria