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Social Security has published a proposed rule that shortens the lookback period for past relevant work (PRW) from the current 15 years to a 5 year period. The proposed rule would recognize that claimants often do not remember the details of a job held 15 years ago. Further, that past job has limited relevance to a claimant’s ability currently to perform that work, because the workplace has changed significantly.  Similarly, job skills acquired 15 years ago are unlikely to be readily transferable to a significant range of semi-skilled or skilled jobs in the current workplace.

The comment period for the rule closes in a week, on November 28th (which is 60 days after the date the proposed rule was published). It has been interesting reading the public comments to the proposed rule. Of the 50+ comments made to date, there are a few stray comments that oppose the proposed rule. The overwhelming majority of the comments, including mine, are strongly supportive of the rule change.

One comment in particular caught my eye. Submitted by Social Security disability lawyer Andrew Kinney, the comment suggests that the new 5-year rule should from the date of adjudication ONLY, and not from the date last insured (DLI), if the DLI is earlier. It is a very good point.

The current rule looks back 15 years from the date of adjudication, or from the date “when the disability insured status requirement was last met, if earlier”. See 20 C.F.R. 404.1565(a).

However, using only the date of adjucation for the PRW period would make sense, for all the reasons underlying the proposed rule change. As Mr. Kinney stated at the end of his comment, “Relying solely on the date of adjudication to calculate PRW in all cases would eliminate the issues you cite surrounding memory and erosion of skills that arise when evaluating PRW in remote DLI situations.” Mr. Kinney is right. Social Security should use the date of adjudication only to define the new 5-year PRW period.

11/27/2023 Update: NOSSCR has submitted its comment, providing reasoned arguments in support of the proposed rule, and urging the SSA to swiftly enact it.

11/29/2023 Update: The comment period has ended. A total of 89 comments were received.