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

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.

Essential Questions

What is the Social Security Disability SSI list of impairments?

Can you work while getting or applying for Disability?

How Often Does Social Security Approve Disability The First Time You Apply?

Tips for getting Social Security Disability or SSI benefits approved

What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?

What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?

Receiving a Disability Award Letter

Conditions Social Security will recognize as a disability

Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

Applying for disability in your state

Most popular topics on SSDRC.com

Social Security Disability SSI Questions

The listings, list of disabling impairments

Can a mental illness qualify you for disability?

Disability Lawyers prevent unnecessary denials

How much Social Security Disability SSI back pay?

How to apply for disability for a child or children

Filing a Social Security Disability SSI application

Filing for disability - when to file

How to apply for disability - where to apply

Qualifications for disability benefits

How to Prove you are disabled and Win your Disability Benefits

Qualifying for Disability - The Process

How to get disability for depression

Getting disability for fibromyalgia

SSI disability for children with ADHD

What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?

Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

Social Security Disability SSI Exam tips

More Social Security Disability SSI Questions

Social Security Disability SSI definitions

What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI?

New and featured pages on SSDRC.com

Who can help me file for disability?

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?
If you apply for disability in Tennessee

Will I qualify for disability Benefits Tennessee?

Getting a Disability Lawyer in Tennessee

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.