Why past work is important when filing for Social Security disability benefits
For anyone who has attempted to file for Social Security disability benefits, the belief (for most) is that feeling really bad is enough to win your claim.
Sadly, this could not be further from the truth.
In order to received Social Security disability benefits, one must pass a 5-step process. While this process goes further in detail in other blogs, Step 4 is a determination that one cannot return back to work performed within the last fifteen years, and Step 5 is a determination one cannot do any other kind of work within the national economy.
What kind of work you performed within the last fifteen years is important for a number of reasons:
1. It provides an answer to what level of physical activity you performed at in the past.
If you sat at a desk all day, then you likely performed sedentary work. If you carried shingles onto a roof, then it is likely you performed heavy work. If you stood around all day but did not carry much weight, then you performed light work. In assessing whether you can or cannot do work you did in the past, the exertion level is key to this determination.
2. Past work also provides an answer as to whether you performed skilled, semi-skilled, or unskilled work.
If you performed at jobs that only required a month to learn, then you likely worked at unskilled positions. If you were a professor at a college, then it is likely you performed skilled labor. The amount of skill in which you worked at over the past fifteen years is important because it leads us to #3.
3. Depending on the skill of the work performed in the past, this may provide transferable work skills which could be used in other areas of work.
Again, if you only worked at unskilled labor, then you do not have transferable work skills. However, if you worked at jobs that required computer, management, communication, etc. skills, then you will have transferable work skills. If that is the case, then even if you are physically disabled, then you may still be found not disabled by the Social Security Administration.
Here is where transferable work skills really come into play:
For those of you who are over the age of 50, transferable work skills are very important. If there is a finding that there are transferable work skills which can be transferred to either light or sedentary work, then you are going to have to prove you are unable to even perform sedentary work. Now, this gets more complicated than this because if you are over the age of 55, then even if you can perform sedentary or light work, you will still be found disabled if you do not have transferable work skills.
So, what can you take from all this?
Understand, the more education and skills you have obtained, the more difficult it is to be found disabled. Why? Because you may be able to transfer those skills to a less physically demanding (even unskilled) job. Therefore, your burden is to show you are even unable to perform at any physical level of work.
For one time in a person's life will a limited education and lack of work skills help. For a person who is over the age of 55, has less than a high school education, and a history of unskilled work, he or she will be found disabled more so than a person who has graduated from high school or college and has worked at skilled labor.
It's not fair, but those are the rules.
We help claimants throughout Texas and California fighting for their Social Security disability benefits. If you need help, please always feel free to call our office: (888) 780-9125.