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

Strengthening your disability case by providing the details of your work history

Tip 8:

I have pointed out many times the fact that most claimants understand the importance of their medical records in reaching a determination on their disability claim, yet simultaneously very few claimants understand the true importance of the information contained in their work history. The details and information about your work history (the jobs you've done, how long you did them ,and what you did on your job) will determine how your past work is classified.

What do we mean by this? Simply that the disability examiner working on your case will attempt to match the work history information that you have provided with jobs that are listed in a reference known as the dictionary of occupational titles, or DOT.

Getting a correct match is extremely important. Matching the job that you have described with the job that is listed in the DOT is not just a matter of matching up the same or similar job titles. It is a matter of matching the right jobs based on work skills, exertional requirements, and job duties performed.

And that is crucial because if you do not meet a listing (in the Social Security list of impairments -- see definition below under "terms discussed"), but your condition is severe enough to have lasted a year and has kept you from engaging in substantial work activity, then the next consideration will be whether or not your current limitations prevent you from going back to your last job or one of the other jobs you did in the past 15 years.

As you can see, a direct comparison will be made between what you are capable of doing right now based on your medical records, and what your past jobs required of you both physically and mentally. So getting the correct match of your job is not just important to your case, it is absolutely crucial.

But the disability examiner working on your claim can only work with the information that you provide, meaning, in this case, a complete and detailed description about what you did on your job, or any of your past jobs (because to turn you down for disability benefits, Social Security only has to find that one of the jobs you worked in the last 15 years is one that you are still capable of going back to).

What do we mean when we say a "complete and detailed description" regarding your work history? This is what we mean: you need to provide the titles of your jobs. You need to indicate at what points in time you performed each job. For each job that you worked, you need to list what your rate of pay was. You also need to list the number of hours you normally worked.

Why does Social Security need to know about your rate of pay and the number of hours that you worked? Because a job will not be counted as part of your past relevant work history if, during the time you held the job, you did not earn what Social Security considers a substantial and gainful income (and that is based on earning a certain minimum amount per month).

It would also be wise when listing your various past jobs to give a description of the exertional requirements of each job. Therefore, you should note the heaviest amount of weight that you would have had to lift or carry in performing the duties of the job.

Why is this important? Because Social Security classifies jobs by exertional categories, such as sedentary, light, medium, heavy, and very heavy. Social Security also classifies your ability to engage in work by whether or not you fit into a sedentary, light, medium, heavy, or very heavy medical vocational profile.

For example, if during the last 15 years all of your jobs have been medium exertion, but after reviewing the medical evidence it is determined that you were only capable of doing light work, then it may be possible that you will be approved for disability, though this will also depend on other factors such as your age, education, and job skills.

And, of course, just as it is important to indicate how much weight you may have had to lift or carry on a particular job, it is equally important to indicate how long you would have been required to sit, stand, or walk in a typical workday while performing that job.

Terms discussed:

  • What does social security mean by past work?
  • What does social security mean by other work?
  • What is the Social Security Disability List of Impairments?
  • How are medical records and work history used to determine a Social Security Disability claim?

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    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?

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    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.