Social Security Disability and Past Relevant Work

As discussed recently, in deciding Social Security Disability or SSI claim, the Social Security Administration follows a sequential evaluation process. At step 4 of that process, the SSA looks to see if the person applying for disability can do her past relevant work. But what is past relevant work?

The term “work experience” means skills and abilities acquired through work previously performed by the individual, which indicates the type of work the individual may be expected to perform.  The SSA considers work experience when it was done within the last 15 years, lasted long enough for you to learn to do it, and was at substantial gainful activity.

Except for limited purposes, work performed 15 years or more prior to the time of adjudication of the claim (or 15 years or more prior to the date the title II disability insured status requirement was last met, if earlier) is ordinarily not considered relevant.  An individual who has worked only sporadically or for brief periods of time during the 15-year period, may be considered to have no relevant work experience.

Capacity to do past work may be indicative of the capacity to engage in SGA when that work experience constituted SGA and has current relevance considering duration and recency.

The adjudicative criteria for determining whether a person has done “substantial” and “gainful” work activity are explained in sections 404.1571-404.1575 and 416.971-416.975 of the regulations.

Duration refers to the length of time during which the person gained job experience. It should have been sufficient for the worker to have learned the techniques, acquired information, and developed the facility needed for average performance in the job situation.

Recency refers to the time which has elapsed since the work was performed. A gradual change occurs in most jobs in our national economy so that after 15 years it is no long realistic to expect that skills (or proficiencies) and abilities acquired in these jobs continue to apply. The 15-year guide is intended to insure that remote work experience which could not reasonably be expected to be of current relevance is not applied.

If you need more information about a Social Security Disability/SSI, personal injury, EEOICPA, long or short-term disability, VA disability, Railroad Retirement Board disability, or a workers compensation matter, please contact the Law Offices of Tony Farmer and John Dreiser for a free case evaluation. We can be reached at (865) 584-1211 or (800) 806-4611 or through our website. Our office handles claims throughout East Tennessee.




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