If You Can Not Return to Past Work Are You Disabled?

by Editorial Board on November 12, 2010 · 0 comments

in Winning Disability Benefits,Questions & Answers,Past Relevant Work (Step 4),Vocational or Work Issues

In most cases Social Security must decide that you cannot do your past work or other work before awarding you disability benefits.  However, depending on your age, you might qualify just by showing you cannot perform your past work.

If you are age 49 or younger you will have to show you cannot do your past work or other work to win your case.  Individuals who are illiterate or unable to communicate in English might be found disabled if they cannot do their past work and are age 45.

At step four of the five step disability evaluation process, Social Security determines your ability to perform your “past relevant work”, which is the work you have done in the past 15 years.  They consider work you did over 15 years ago only if you have an expired Date Last Insured [hyperlink].  The key question is whether you can perform that past work as you performed it or as it is usually performed.  A jobs expert, called a “vocational expert” in disability hearings, often gives testimony about how jobs are usually performed.  For example, if you worked as a warehouse manager you might have done heavy lifting even though most warehouse managers do not.

Social Security might deny your case even if your past work no longer exists.  If you worked for a company that has shut down and that type of work is no longer available in your area, Social Security will still deny your case if they believe you could still do the job if you could somehow get it again.  This is true even if the job no longer exists anywhere in the country.  For example, if there are no more elevator operators, but if it was part of someone’s past relevant work then Social Security could deny the case by finding they could return to that job.  This is clearly an unfair rule, but it is part of Social Security disability law and must not be ignored.

If you are older than age 50 you might still have to convince Social Security that you cannot do other work.  This depends on several factors, including your education, job skills, and limitations from your medical conditions.  As you age, the disability standard becomes easier to meet.  Disability claimants who are age 55 or older are evaluated under an easier standard, and another favorable rule applies at age 60.

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