How Does My Work History Affect My Disability Application in 2024?

Submitted by Bryan on

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.

Further Reading: What Conditions Qualify For Disability?

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?

SSA Work History Report

When filing a claim for disability benefits you will need to complete a work history report. The information asked for will help the SSA understand how your illnesses or injuries could affect your ability to work in the occupations you are qualified to do. The information tells the SSA about the type of work you did, including the skills you needed and the physical and mental requirements for each job. In Section 2, you provide information about the different types of jobs you did in the 15 years before you could no longer work due to your illness or injuries. You will need a separate page to describe each of your jobs. You will need to provide the wages you earned for each job.

Under each job description you will be required to describe your use of machines, tools, or equipment and if you required any technical knowledge. You are also asked to describe how much walking, standing, stooping, climbing, crouching, crawling, reaching and kneeling each job required. How much you had to handle, grasp, or grab big objects is required too. Lastly, you will need to state if each job required any writing or typing.
You will be asked to describe what weight you can lift such as less than 10 lbs, 20 lbs, 50 lbs and 100 lbs and what was required in reach job for 1/3 to 2/3 of the workday.

Don’t forget at the end of the report to include the name of the person completing this form if other than the disabled person (Please print) Date (Month, day, year), Address (Number and Street), Email address (optional), City, State and ZIP Code.

This is a link to the form:

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.

Additional Resources