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Sometimes workers in chronic pain reduce their hours from full-time to part-time to try to stay employed and manage their pain. If this part-time work is above the SGA level, it can cause a problem for an eventual Social Security disability claim.

Social Security considers whether or not you can return to your past relevant work at step 4 of the sequential evaluation. Even part-time past work is past relevant work if the wages were above the level of substantial gainful activity and you performed the work long enough to learn it. See Social Security Ruling 96-8p, footnote 2.

This can be a trap for the unwary. When Social Security determines your residual functional capacity, it typically must consider your ability to work on a “regular and continuing basis,” which means 8 hours a day, for 5 days a week, or an equivalent work schedule. Ruling 96-8p. However, part-time past relevant work performed at SGA is an exception to this rule.

This provides yet another reason to prepare a detailed work background.