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One of the items an administrative law judge may consider when deciding your disability case is your prior work record. A judge will look to see whether or not you were steadlily employed prior to applying for disability, and how much you were earning. A disability claimant with a twenty year work record with good earnings tends to be looked at more favorably than a person who has been chronically underemployed.

I had a recent Social Security disability hearing in Manchester, NH for a claimant with an outstanding prior work record. 40 years of earnings. 20+ years making over $80,000. I just marvelled at it.

This case had everything that a properly prepared disability claim file should have, including up-to-date medical records and a medical source statement from each of the claimant's medical providers. There was a clear medical diagnosis and unrebutted medical opinion regarding the claimant's resulting functional limitations. Despite all that, it was the claimant's prior work record that provided the most persuasive piece of evidence in the claim file. 

A claimant's credibility is at the heart of a Social Security disability claim. Many people who are disabled physically have subjective symptoms such as pain or fatigue. The judge must determine if the pain and fatigue is as bad as you say it is, and if it limits your ability to work as severely as you say it does. This necessarily requires a credibility determination.

The SSA has rules regarding the factors that must be considered by the judge when assessing credibility. See 20 C.F.R. 404.1529(c)(3) and Social Security Ruling 96-7p. Both the regulation and the ruling include your prior work record among the factors to be considered.

An outstanding work record demands the conclusion that (since the claimant has worked for 40 years), he would be working currently if he were able to do so. A person doesn't work for 40 years and then stop and apply for disability for no reason. As a result, the outstanding work record fully supports a determination that the claimant's impairments are preventing him from working.

{update: The ALJ apparently agreed. This claim has been granted}