Sometimes when Social Security denies a disability claim after an initial review, the denial letter states that the disability applicant could return to past relevant work. In addition to developing the medical evidence, these claims require a detailed look into the vocational evidence.
Social Security treats people differently based upon their vocational backgrounds. If the SSA determines that you have the capacity return to your past relevant work, your claim will be denied at step 4 of the sequential evaluation.
I had a case recently where the claimant did not fully describe the physical requirements of his past relevant work (he was not represented by an attorney when he completed the Work History Report). It was a job he did 13 years ago, and he would be unable to do it today. Perhaps because the job was so long ago, on the Work History Report he only described the part of that job performed was a sedentary desk job, leaving out the aspects of that job that were more physically demanding. Given his residual functional capacity and his description of that past job, it appeared that he was still able to perform that job. His disability claim was therefore denied.
After interviewing this new client and reviewing the disability claim file, it was apparent that updating the vocational evidence would likely resolve the case. I filed a statement from the claimant providing complete details on the job in question, and filed an on the record request. The claim was granted after just two months at the hearing level.
For those applying for disability at age 55 or older with physical limitations, the primary focus of the claim is often past relevant work. In such claims, developing the vocational evidence can be as important as developing the medical evidence.