What types of information is Social Security Disability looking for?

What types of information is social security actually looking for in the claimant's medical records and work history? With regard to the work history, social security is first looking for relevancy. This means jobs that were performed within the past fifteen year period.

Jobs that are older than this timeframe will not be the focus of a disability claim because the work skills that are associated with them may possibly be out of date, or out of demand in the national economy.

However, for jobs that are within the relevant 15 year period, the disability examiner--or the adminstrative law judge if the claim is at the hearing level--will be looking for:

A) dates of employment,

B) job titles, and

C) descriptions of the work performed.

This information may assist the disability examiner in categorizing the claimant's past work.

Why does the claimant's work need to be categorized? Disability examiners try to match the descriptions of jobs provided by disability claimants at the time of the disability application with similar descriptions of jobs in something known as the DOT, or dictionary of occupational titles. Listings in the DOT will inform the disability examiner of the mental and physical requirements of a specific job.

Accurately or inaccurately identifying a claimant's past jobs can have a definite effect on the outcome of a disability claim.

For example, if a claimant states that their primary job for the last fifteen years was "truck driver", but does not provide enough information for the disability examiner to distinguish whether or not the job was really "tractor-trailer-truck driver versus delivery truck driver, then the claimant may place themselves at a disadvantage.

The work involved in being a tractor-trailer-truck driver is considered to be of medium intensity, whereas certain other truck driving jobs require less physically and, thus, are considered to be of light intensity.

Accurate information, or the lack of it, can certainly have an impact on a claim and can push a disability claim toward an approval or a denial. It is fairly easy to see how this applies to work history information because the social security administration is relying completely on the individual who is filing for disability benefits to provide the correct information.

But this also applies to information about the claimant's medical history. For example, though all individuals who file for disability list at least part of their medical treatment sources at the time of application, many applicants fail to list them all. Moreover, many claimants fail to accurately list when their various conditions were first diagnosed as well as how far back their treatment with a specific doctor or hospital goes.

Why are treatment dates so important to a Social Security Disability or SSI disability case? Because of something known as "onset". Onset is basically when a person's state of disability is considered to have begun. When a claimant initiates a disability application and a disability report form (form SSA-3368), they basically give an AOD, or alleged onset of disability. The AOD is when they think their disability began.

However, it's not until a claimant's case has been decided (and approved) that an alleged onset date becomes an EOD, or established date of onset. An established date of onset is when the social security administration considers a claimant's disability to have begun.

This is based on the medical records, and it is also based on the social security administration being able to obtain the earliest possible medical records. Of course, how far back a disability examiner may request records will depend on the earliest dates of treatment provided by a claimant when they submit their paperwork.

To recap, SSD and SSI disability claims are based on medical treatment information and work history information. With both, it is distinctly to the claimant's advantage to provide the most detailed and accurate information.

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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