How Does My Work History Affect My Disability Application?

Submitted by Bryan on Fri, 02/04/2022 - 15:47

When applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), the first step of the process will be to determine if you are currently eligible for disability benefits due to your illness. There are hundreds of conditions that qualify for disability benefits.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a medical guide, known as the Blue Book, to determine whether or not a condition is severe enough to warrant disability payments.

While you may be quite ill, not all applicants will qualify for disability benefits through the Blue Book.

In fact, the majority of applicants are initially denied at this step of the process.

If you are denied benefits through the list of impairments, the SSA will evaluate your remaining abilities, or your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC).

You will need to prove that your current medical condition prohibits you from working your most recent job, a job that you’ve performed in the last 15 years, or any job in which you are qualified for.

This medical-vocational analysis will determine what type of work, if any, that you are capable of performing.

How does my past work history impact my current disability application?

What Is Considered “Past-Relevant Work”?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) will determine your residual functional capacity level and declare whether you are able to do heavy work, medium work, light work, sedentary work, or less than sedentary work. If it has been decided that you can only do less than sedentary work, you will likely qualify for benefits.

However, if you have been assigned any of the other levels of work, the SSA will then decide what type of work you can still perform.

In order to be approved for a medical-vocational allowance (MVA), you will need to prove that you can no longer work in your most recent field of employment and that you can’t succeed in any other job either.

How does my past work history impact my current disability application?

You will be required to complete form SSA-3369, which is a work history report form. This form will help the SSA to understand how your condition might affect your ability to do the work that you are qualified to do.

How Does My Work History Affect My Disability Application?

The information that you provide will include the types of jobs you’ve performed, the skills required to do those jobs, and the physical and mental requirements of each job.

The SSA evaluates only those jobs performed in the last fifteen years of your life. Therefore, if you were an accountant right out of school, but left that career more than fifteen years ago to become a landscape designer, that job will not be considered as “past-relevant work” (PRW).

According to the SSA, past-relevant work must have occurred in the last 15 years, must have earned you a certain dollar amount per month to be considered substantial gainful activity (SGA), and must have lasted long enough for you to have learned the job.

Older workers over the age of 50 may be able to qualify based on their ability to work and the severity of their condition, you can find more information about that here:
Qualifying Over Age 50
How does my past work history impact my current disability application?

Social Security Work History Report

If you do not immediately qualify for a disability benefit based on the SSA’s Blue Book criteria you may still qualify for a Medical Vocational Allowance (MVA). To qualify for a MVA you would need to prove that you can no longer earn a living by doing the same sort of work as you have been doing for the last 15 years or any kind of work based on your physical and mental abilities.

To be able to determine whether your work history qualifies you for a MVA, the SSA will ask you to complete a SSA-3369 work history report. This may not be necessary if you are over 50 as the application process tends to be more lenient when you reach this age.

This report only looks at work done in the last 15 years but it is important that you answer each question fully without leaving out information as this may delay approval of your application or lead to a denial of your benefit.

Alongside a work history report, the SSA may also ask for a residual functional capacity assessment to be completed by your physician as this provides information about the sort of work that you can still do or work that you cannot do based on your physical and mental capacity as tested in the assessment. The SSA will match your current ability to do any work based on the severity of your disability with your work history to determine whether you are eligible for a benefit.

What is a Social Security Work History Report?

A Social Security Work History Report is a tool that the Disability Determination Service uses to determine if there is any kind of work that you have done in the past which you could still do even with your current impairments. Before your claim for disability benefits is approved the SSA may try to find another type of work that you can do but that work has to be something that you have training in already or have worked at in the past.

A Social Security Work History Report goes back 15 years. You will need to list all of the jobs that you have had in those 15 years. You will need to provide a detailed summary of the work that you did, any special equipment or machinery that you operated, and what training you received to do that job.

As part of the description of each job that you held you will need to describe whether you sat down or stood to do the job, how much writing you needed to do, how long you were looking at a screen, whether or not you were on the phone often, how much walking and moving around was required to do the job, and other specific details for each job.

Be as detailed and specific as possible because DDS will use this report to decide whether or not you will be able to do any of those types of work again now with the impairments that you have due to your medical condition.

How Does This Affect Completing My Work History Report Form?

When completing your work history report form you should be thinking about each job and which aspects of that job would be impossible for you do perform in your current condition.

Some questions that you will want to consider are:

  • Did each job listed occur within the last 15 years?
  • Did I work at this job long enough to learn the skills required for the job?
  • If I was at a job for less than six months, did I leave because the physical or mental requirements were too difficult for me to handle?
  • Did any of these jobs require that I stay overtime to complete the tasks of the job? Was there a mandatory overtime component to any of these jobs?
  • What is the maximum requirement of the job? For example, if you worked in retail you may mostly work at the cash register. However, occasionally you might be required to lift a heavy box. Be certain to include the most difficult aspects of your past jobs
  • What level of mental capacity did it take to perform at your past jobs?
  • Were you able to work to the same capacity as others in the company, or were special considerations made for you due to your condition?

While you want to be honest and clear about your limitations and past-work history, you will also want to display that you are a hard-worker.

Illustrating that you have a stable, long work history will add credibility to your case.

How to Answer Social Security Disability Work History Report

Those applying for SSDI can increase their chances of eligibility by having a solid background of employment at the time of their initial interview, describing their job duties. Also, make sure to give correct contact details to former employers so that the interviewer can, if appropriate, phone them to clarify the specifications of a particular role you have defined in your job experience, as well as any specific skills that you may or may not have learned.

A lengthy job history can illustrate to a judge that you have been a hard worker, and not one looking for a hand out, in addition to providing information about previous job duties and skills. This helps your reputation at the hearing: the court is more likely to believe you after hearing your suffering and disabilities.

How does my past work history impact my current disability application?

Will I Need Help Proving I Can't Work?

If you are unable to work due to your current condition, it is imperative that you hire an experienced disability attorney or advocate to assist you with your claim. An experienced attorney is well-versed in the requirements of past-relevant work, and can help to ensure that your individual application is handled appropriately. A complete and accurate work-history form can make the difference in winning your claim.

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