Why Past Work Is So Important For Social Security Disability
Almost 99% of people who file for Social Security disability believe that because they are unable to do their present category of work, they should be found disabled.
However, this thinking is flawed. Yes, determining if a person is unable to return to past work is important when deciding if one is eligible for Social Security disability benefits, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. There is more to be understood below the surface.
There are actually five-steps a person must overcome to receive disability benefits. They are: (1) a person is not earning above a certain level of income, (2) his or her condition is severe, (3) they may or may not meet a medical listing of their condition, (4) he or she cannot return to work completed within the last 15 years, and (5) there are no other jobs within the national economy a person can perform even despite his or her condition.
When determining a person's past work, a number of issues must be resolved:
First, that person must have worked long enough to learn the position and must have earned enough for the job to be considered relevant work.
Second, the type of work a person has performed at those kinds of jobs will either have produced transferable work skills or it was the kind of work, although skilled, cannot be transferred to some other kind of work.
If a person has worked at unskilled labor, then the decision is easy: there are no transferable work skills. However, even if a person has worked at skilled or semi-skilled labor, then there must be a determination if such skills may transfer. More times than not, the determination is whether or not a person's skills can be transferred to sedentary work.
Let's look at some examples:
1. A person is 55 years-old, and he was a line cook at a cafe for the last 15 years before applying for Social Security disability. This kind of position would be considered medium exertion work and would be considered semi-skilled. The reason why the work would be considered medium is because a person would be required to stand for at least 6 out of 8 hours per day and the lifting requirements would likely be around 20 lbs. Now, if the person had, let's say congestive heart failure, could such skills be transferred to sedentary work, where the person would then be required to sit for 6 out of 8 hours per day and only occasionally lift up to 10 lbs? In this example, such skills would likely not transfer to sedentary work because the kind of work does not lend itself to sitting the majority of the day and there were no management skills learned while performing it.
Now, let's look at another example:
2. A person is 55 years-old and has worked at a warehouse position for the last 15 years. However, the person was a manager of the warehouse. He or she hired employees, spent the majority of their day managing those employees, and answered to management for inventory controls. While the position he or she performed may be considered even medium work due to the lifting requirements, there is likely to be a finding that such skills could be transferred to light or even sedentary. Why? Because management skills can be transferred to other work. So, even if a person is over the age of 55, if he or she has transferable work skills to light or sedentary work, then that means there is likely other work within the national economy he or she can perform even with a disabling condition.
So, let's look at the 5-steps again:
1. A person applies for Social Security disability benefits and he or she has not worked within the last year at the old job because of a disabling condition. Then, Step 1 is satisfied and he or she is allowed to move onto Step 2.
2. The condition is severe. This means that the condition interferes with his or her ability to perform basic work activities such as lifting, carrying, walking, bending, etc. And, such a condition is likely to last for 12 months or more. Therefore, a person has satisfied Step 2, and is allowed to move onto Step 3.
3. The claimant does not meet a Medical Listing. But here, that is going to be ok, and he or she will be allowed to move onto Step 4.
4. Now, there must be a determination whether the claimant can do any work he or she has performed within the last 15 years. Let's take the warehouse position again. Because it was considered medium work, the standing and lifting requirements were too strenuous, so there is a determination that he or she cannot return to past work. Again, he or she will be allowed to move onto Step 5.
5. Can the person do some other kind of work? Well, if that person was in management and learned those skills, then there will be likely some other work that person can perform at the sedentary level. What does this mean? -It means, that the claimant will lose at Step 5, and will be found not disabled.
If this fits your situation, then you have to do something else. You will have the burden of proving that even with those transferable work skills, you would not be able to even perform sedentary work. You would not be capable of working at any job which required you to sit for 6 out of 8 hours per day, and your lifting restrictions allowed you to never lift 10 lbs.
We help claimants throughout Texas and California fighting for their Social Security disability benefits. If you need help, please always feel free to contact us at: (888) 780-9125.