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Social Security assesses your ability to perform your past relevant work at step 4 of the sequential evaluation process.

Social Security will evaluate your ability to do the physical and mental activities that were required to perform your past work. The SSA will not consider whether or not you could actually get a job doing this work.

Additionally, when evaluating your ability to perform your past relevant work, the SSA does not consider:

  • whether you would be hired,
  • whether a job opening exists,
  • whether you would be required to relocate,
  • whether you want to do this work,
  • whether you still have a certificate or license to do the past work.

The last item on the list is one I hear about from clients who are pilots, truck drivers, or commercial bus drivers – people who are required to have an examination from a physician to maintain a license. The fact that you could not pass the physical to get licensed is not considered by Social Security.

Rather, the SSA will simply evaluate whether or not your could perform the necessary work activities of that past job. It may be that the medical condition that would keep you from getting licensed would also prevent you from performing the job. But not always.

A Social Security disability claimant should emphasize the functional limitations that would preclude past relevant work, and skip the argument about not being able to be licensed, and therefore unable to work.