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SSDRC Disability Blog

If you are denied for disability, is this based on your ability to do your past work?

The evaluation of Past work is a significant part of the decision process used by the social security administration for determining SSDI (social security disability insurance) and SSI (supplemental security income) disability claims.

Past work is, obviously, any work that was previously done by a person. However, for SSA purposes, the only past work that is considered (for the purpose of determining a claim) is relevant past work. What is "relevant" past work? This is any work that meets the following criteria:

A) Was performed by a person in the fifteen year period (known as the relelvant period) prior to filing for disability.

B) Was performed for at least three months.

C) Was performed by the individual long enough for them to learn the requirements of the job.

D) Was performed by the individual while they were earning a substantial and gainful wage (this is known as SGA, or substantial gainful activity).

Not all of the jobs worked by a person throughout the course of their work history will be looked at by the social security administration; however, since the relevant period is 15 years long, this means that most jobs, and usually the individual's most important jobs, will be reviewed.

How does relevant past work actually figure into the disability determination process? Past work is one of the steps of the sequential evaluation process. Essentially, a person who files for disability and gets approved can win their approval in one of two different ways: satisfying a listing or passing the five-step sequential evaluation process.

1. Meeting or Equaling a listing: In this approval method, the applicant's condition, or at least one of their conditions (many applicants have several physical or mental impairments when they apply for disability), must satisfy the requirements of a listing in something known as the blue book. The blue book is the impairment listing manual, a.k.a. the social security disability list of impairments.

The manual lists many (though certainly not all) physical and mental impairments and very specific disability criteria that, if satisfied by the information in a person's medical records, may result in a disability award.

Most applicants are not approved on the basis of meeting or equaling the requirements of a listing in the blue book because the listing requirements can be very specific and, thus, difficult to meet.

In actuality, most individuals who are approved for SSDI or are approved for SSI benefits are awarded on the basis of something known as a medical vocational allowance. A Medical Vocational Allowance is a disability award that is made after the sequential evaluation process has been used to to determine the person's eligibility.

2. Sequential Evaluation - Under sequential evaluation, the disability examiner or the disability judge (depending on the level of the claim) will review the claimant's medical history and work history and will use the information from each to arrive at a final determination that leads to an approval or a denial of the claim. Under sequential evaluation, the applicant's case goes through a five-step checklist:

continued at: How does Social Security Decide if I am Disabled?

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

Related pages:

If I Get Denied Twice For SSD or SSI Disability, What Do I Do?
What Are The Reasons For Social Security Disability Cases Being Denied?
What happens if you get denied for social security disability three times?
Why Will A Social Security Disability Application Get Denied?
How Many Times Will Social Security Disability Deny You before You Get Approved for Disability?
Can You Avoid Being Denied on a Social Security Disability or SSI Claim?
What happens if a reconsideration for Social Security Disability or SSI is denied?
What should be done if your disability is denied?
How do you appeal if you are denied for Social Security disability or SSI?
Should you get Help from a Disability Attorney before the Claim has been Denied?

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.

How to file for disability, SSD or SSI
How to file for Disability and what medical conditions qualify
How long will it take to get disability?
What if your disability gets denied?
How to Prove you are disabled and qualify to win disability benefits
How to get disability with a mental condition
How long for Social Security Disability Back pay
Social Security Disability SSI eligibility