Social Security Disability RC

How to file for disability, Filing for SSI
Disability Requirements, Disability Status
How long is the wait?, Disability Application
Social Security Disability list of impairments
How to Qualify for Disability, Mental Disability
Disability Lawyers FAQ, Disability Back Pay

Will you be awarded disability in Florida if you are unable to return to your old job?

I see this mentioned now and then: the notion that you will be awarded Social Security Disability or SSI disability if you are unable to return to your old job. Is this correct? Not really.

There are two ways of being awarded disability benefits in Florida from the social security administration. The first way is for a disability adjudicator (depending on the level your claim is at, this will be either a disability examiner or a disability judge) to determine that the medical evidence in your file satisfies the approval criteria for a physical or mental condition that is listed in the Social Security Disability list of impairments.

Even in that case, of course, a claimant cannot be working and earning what is referred to as a substantial gainful income. The second way in which a claimant may be awarded SSD disability benefits or SSI disability benefits is for the adjudicator to decide that A) the claimant is unable to do their past work (its more technically correct to say their "past relevant work", specific jobs that have occurred in the last 15 years) and B) that the claimant is unable to perform other work.

To answer the question with which we started, however, it is incorrect to state that just because an individual cannot go back to their old job that they will get disability benefits. If their condition prevents them from engaging in their past work, its true that they might be approved for disability. But the "might" part is conditioned upon the determination that the claimant is, likewise, unable to transition to some type of other work for which their vocational profile might be considered suitable.

Now, for those who are curious, how does social security determine whether or not a person can go back to their past work? Simple. The decision-maker, or adjudicator makes an attempt to classify the jobs held by a claimant. This task begins with the work history information provided by the claimant. The adjudicator will take this information and try to match it to a job description contained in the DOT, the dictionary of occupational titles. Once the match is made, the adjudicator will be able to compare the work demands and job skills of the claimant's past work to their current level of functioning.

Obviously, if their current level of functionality is less than what their former jobs required, they will not be able to go back to their past work.

Hearing this brief description of how a claimant's work history is used in the disability determination process, though, should cause a light bulb go off. And that light bulb illustrates just how important it is for a person who has filed for disability to provide reliable and accurate information about the jobs they've held in the past. Because for the social security administration to properly classify a person's jobs (which can directly influence the outcome of a disability case), the adjudictor/decision-maker needs to know as much as possible, including job titles, how long a job was worked, what was done on the job, and what the individual's responsibilities were.

So, at the risk of sounding repetitive, always always always provide detailed information about your work history, in addition to detailed information about your medical history. Tip: after completing a work history questionaire for social security, make a photocopy to keep for your own records so you can accurately reproduce the information again, if it is requested.

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For the sake of clarity, 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 homepage and view the "about this site" link near the bottom of the page.