The effect of past work

Social Security applications require information regarding work performed by the claimant in the past fifteen years. Most claimants are not working at the time, but this information is a critical part of the disability analysis.

A claimant’s past work is relevant to the disability determination because the Administration considers whether the person is able to return to that type of work or if that work is skilled or unskilled. Skilled work is work that requires judgment and precision, and dealing with people, facts, figures or abstract ideas at a complex level. Unskilled work is work that can be learned in 30 days or less and does not impart work skills. Some skills learned at work are transferable and can be used in a variety of jobs. Other skills are specific to a job or industry and are not transferable to other types of work. Whether a claimant’s skills are transferable is also a consideration.

For these reasons, it is important to for a claimant to be able to recite their work history with the following details: dates of employment (month and year are acceptable), essential job duties, any management experience and hours worked (full-time/part-time/seasonal, etc.). The claimant should also be able to identify any specialized training or education required for or learned on the job.


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