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Social Security Disability and your Work History




The Social Security Administration will determine a claimant is disabled if they have a severe impairment and are unable to work at least 12 continuous months. They may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance if they have worked and earned enough “work credits”. If they do not have sufficient work history, but they are limited in resources and income, they may qualify for Supplemental Security Income.

Evaluating Work History

It is difficult to understand how your work history affects your ability to win Social Security Disability benefits without understanding the disability determination process. The main objective of the SSA is to determine whether or not the claimant’s condition is so severe they are unable to work. To do this the Social Security Administration analyzes your residual functional capacity and work history to decide if you can work your current job or any other job you have performed in the last 15 years given your mental of physical limitations.

The Disability examiner will analyze your work history, only considering jobs which lasted for 3 months or longer and which were performed at SGA level. The examiner will match past jobs to jobs listed in the SSA’s Dictionary of Occupational Titles and rate the physical and mental requirement of each job. If the disability examiner determines that you do not have enough RFC or residual functional capacity to perform any of your past work they will decide if you are able to be retrained for a new job.

For example, if you are a 24 year-old construction worker who has a college degree and has worked several other types of skilled office positions and the DDS determines you are not able to return your construction job due to a leg injury or some other physical impairment they may decide, based on residual functional information from your doctors, you are able to perform work at a light exertion level. Next they will decide if given your age, educational level and work skills if you could retrain for another type of job. If they decide you could, you will be denied Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits.

In some cases your work history or age may be benefit your case. For instance, if you are a fifty-five year old construction worker who did not graduate from high school, has always worked heavy labor, and is now required to do sedentary work the DDS may determine given your work history, education level and your age you it may be impossible for you to retrain for a desk job and will therefore be awarded disability benefits.

The Social Security Administration not only considers a claimant’s mental or physical health condition, they also analyze a claimant’s residual functional capacity, age and other factors to determine a claimant’s ability to maintain employment. The evaluation process can be complicated, and disability examiners can use a variety of tools created by the SSA such as vocational guidelines and GRID rules to help make their disability decisions. If you are unsure of whether or not you meet the definition of disabled according to the Social Security Administration, contact a Social Security Disability lawyer for more information.