SSA Clarifies Rules on Past Relevant Work

Submitted by Kyle on Mon, 02/27/2012 - 10:04

When an applicant sends a disability claim to the Social Security Administration, an adjudicator who works for the SSA review’s the applicant’s file to determine whether or not the individual qualifies for Social Security Disability benefits. While this file is under review, a number of factors are taken into consideration including the applicant’s past relevant work activity. Recently the SSA has created rules that affect how past relevant work experience is viewed. How does this affect an applicant’s chances of receiving the Social Security Disability benefits they need? In some cases, it may make getting those benefits harder.

The adjudicators who work for the SSA have been provided with a new operations manual that instructs these employees regarding how to determine whether or not an applicant’s past work experience is relevant to their claim and how that experience should be applied to their application for Social Security Disability benefits.

According to the new rules, the adjudicators who work on SSA claims are only allowed to evaluate whether or not the applicant is able to perform previous work activity based on a function-by-function analysis of that applicant. Previously, adjudicators could take more information into account. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. Why does this pose a problem for some Social Security Disability applicants?

Let’s say, for example, that a school bus driver suffers a disability that requires them to take narcotic pain relievers. Without considering the fact that someone who is under the influence of narcotic pain relievers should not be driving children around, the SSA adjudicator would be forced to deny the bus driver’s claim if the bus driver was still able to perform the functions of his or her previous work activity. It doesn’t matter that the driver’s ability would be impaired. What matters to the SSA is that the applicant could still, technically, drive a bus – regardless of the fact that no bus company would hire such an individual due to the drug test results that would likely arise if this person were applying for employment.

This is why, now more than ever, it is crucial for Social Security Disability applicants to retain the services of a qualified Social Security Disability attorney. Due to these new processing guidelines, more applicants will likely be facing a disability appeal in order to obtain their disability benefits. A qualified SSI attorney can help these applicants through the disability appeal process, explaining what should already to be obvious to this government organization – that sometimes symptoms of a disability itself are not the only factor that interferes with an individual’s ability to work. If the SSA denies your disability claim for a similar reason, make sure you retain the services of a qualified disability lawyer so he or she can fight for the Social Security Disability payments to which you are entitled.