Past Work: As Performed vs. As Usually Performed

by Editorial Board on November 17, 2010 · 0 comments

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

Social Security will deny your claim if they believe you could do your past relevant work, either as you performed it or as it is usually performed.  Social Security looks at the information you give them in the disability forms and in testimony to understand the demands of your past work.  They use the Dictionary of Occupational Title (the DOT), a government job survey, to decide how your past work is usually performed.

Let’s say you worked as a warehouse manager before you were injured.  If it was a small warehouse you probably did more heavy lifting and walking than most warehouse managers.  The

DOT states that warehouse managers typically lift no more than twenty pounds, making it a light job.  Even though you can’t do the lifting needed in your past job, Social Security will deny your case if they believe you can do the lifting and other requirements of the warehouse manager job as the DOT describes it.

Disability claimants younger than age 50 are rarely affected by this rule.  Even if Social Security decides you couldn’t do your past work or if you have none, they will still decide whether there is other work you can perform.  If you are 50 or older it becomes more important.  If you can’t perform your past work because of your medical conditions you can be found disabled under the grid rules.  However, Social Security will not look at the grid rules if they think you can do your past work as it is usually performed.  They will simply deny your claim.

Another possibility is that the DOT says your past job is usually more difficult than the job you actually did.  Let’s go back to the warehouse manager.  Say that your boss knew you had medical problems and so she let you sit when necessary.  Your boss also said you didn’t need to lift more than ten pounds.  This would probably be considered a seated job (“sedentary job”).  Even though the DOT says the job normally requires more lifting and walking, Social Security will deny your case if they think you could do the job as you actually did it (seated with little lifting).  This is true even if the company closed and that job no longer exists!

Be careful when providing information to Social Security.  When you describe how you did your past work make sure to describe your work duties in detail.

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