Many people who apply for Social Security Disability benefits (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) don’t realize how important their work history is to their chances of being awarded benefits. SSDI and SSI are awarded to those with a severe, ongoing medical condition that prevents them from performing their current job, a past job, or any other work to which they may be suited. Your work history is critical in determining his or her ability to maintain gainful employment.
Disability decisions are based primarily upon two things: 1) information contained in your medical records and 2) your work history. In deciding your claim, the disability examiner, often with the help of a medical consultant, will review your medical records to determine your maximum residual functional capacity (RFC). An RFC assessment specifies activities that you can and cannot perform because of your medical impairment. The examiner then analyzes whether your RFC allows you to return to your prior job or any relevant jobs you’ve done in the past 15 years, or whether you have job skills that can transfer to another type of job.
The claims examiner will look closely at the requirements of your prior jobs to see if you should be able to return to one of them, given your RFC. The examiner needs to know the details of the prior work you’ve done to determine if you can return to it, or if your impairment precludes you from doing the job. If the examiner doesn’t know the true requirements of the job, the examiner might think you’re able to do the job when you’re not. For example, if your job required that you had to occasionally lift 50 pounds, but you’ve been given a “light RFC” due to a back injury, the examiner should find that you can’t go back to the past work. But, if the examiner doesn’t know that your prior job required you to lift 50 pounds occasionally, the examiner could say that you should be able to return to your prior job, and can deny you benefits on that basis.
Those who apply for disability benefits can improve their chances of approval by providing a solid work history at the time of their initial interview or in their Work History Report (Form SSA-3369) detailing their job duties. In addition to providing information about prior job duties and skills, a long work history can show a judge that you have been a hard worker, not just someone looking for a handout. This can help your credibility at a hearing.
The Work History Report will ask about your past job titles, duties required in each position, and the skills and experience you gained in each job. From this, the Social Security Administration (SSA) can gain insight into the physical and mental requirements of your former work, as well as your job skills that affect the kinds of jobs you are qualified to do.
Consistency and completeness are crucial concepts to keep in mind when you fill out every form. Never leave any question or field in the form blank. Even if you are not sure if the question applies to you, make sure you enter something in every answer section of the form. When blanks are left on the form, the SSA must collect more information before they can make a decision on your SSD claim. This only delays the decision-making process. Furthermore, you should provide additional information when needed. Some sections of the Work History Report ask for “further explanation” of the answers you provide. Make your responses in these sections thoroughly detailed. For example, the form asks you to explain “lifting and carrying” activities that were part of your job. Ensure your answer includes detailed descriptions of what you lifted and carried, how often, and why.
A licensed advocate or attorney can help you make sure that your statements improve your chances of receiving disability benefits rather than harming them. If you or someone you know is unable to work due to a medical condition(s), please contact us for a free evaluation of your claim!
By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®