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Social Security published today a proposed rule change to “revise the definition of past relevant work (PRW) by reducing the relevant work period from 15 to 5 years.” Here is a link to the proposed rule.

This would be a significant (and welcome) change to the disability evaluation process. It would be a commonsense change to the rules, and would help many claimants who risk being denied disability benefits (unfairly, in my view) based upon work they did 15 years ago.

For context, Step 4 of the disability sequential evaluation considers a person’s ability to perform their past relevant work, both as actually performed and as generally performed in the national economy. At Step 5, Social Security considers whether a person has acquired job skills from past relevant work that would transfer to a significant range of other jobs. The proposed rule narrows the jobs included in PRW to just the past 5 years. In the world of Social Security disability, that is a huge change.

There are many reasons supporting the change. The first is fairness. Second, it simplifies the process; a claimant doesn’t have to remember and describe in detail 15 years of past work, and Social Security does not need to evaluate 15 years of past work. Third, it recognizes that life moves pretty fast, and job skills acquired 15 years ago are unlikely to be relevant today.