At Step 4 of Social Security’s sequential evaluation, the SSA considers the claimant’s ability to perform their past relevant work, both as actually performed and as generally performed in the national economy. That means that Social Security will evaluate your ability to do the jobs you have had over the past 15 years,
55+ years old
“a significant range of semi-skilled or skilled work”
Disability claimants over the age of 55 who are unable to perform their past relevant work and are limited to Light exertional work (or less) will be found disabled at step 5 in the absence of readily transferable skills (and in the absence of recent education providing direct entry to skilled work), by operation of…
Look at the DEQY
At the hearing level, the SSA adds to the disability claim file a document called the “Detailed Earnings Query,” or DEQY. The DEQY lists all the employers that have paid wages (and the amount of annual wages paid), during the past 15 years. Fifteen years is the time frame for past relevant work for Step 4 of the sequential evaluation of a Social Security disability claim.
When past relevant work is critical to a claim (Social Security disability claimants over the age of 55 suffering from physical impairments, in particular), a Representative needs to look very carefully at the DEQY, so that all past relevant work can be properly classified and evaluated.
Let me give an example, one that turned out fine but could have been a disaster.…
Develop the vocational evidence
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.
Get an attorney involved at the beginning of your claim
I have had several claims granted recently at the initial level. These claims were determined quickly and favorably because (in my opinion) an attorney was involved very early in the claim process.
Fees tend to be much lower for these claims. A contingency fee is charged based upon the past due benefits, and the…
You must be unable to do “other work” for disability
Most Social Security disability are decided on a medical-vocational basis. To be awarded disability benefits, you first must be unable to perform your past relevant work. Additionally, you must be unable to do other work that exists in substantial numbers in the national economy. This is step 5 of Social Security's 5-step sequential evaluation.
Don’t Forget the Vocational Evidence
Most disability claims are decided on a medical-vocational basis. Sometimes too little attention is paid to the vocational side of the analysis.
I had hearing recently that illustrated the importance of developing the vocational evidence for a disability claim. My client's sole past relevant work was a public insurance adjuster, who is a person hired by individuals to document property damage claims, and then submit the claims to insurance companies. His application for Social Security disability benefits had been denied by DDS on the theory that his "light" residual functional capacity (RFC) would allow performance of his past work as generally performed.
Whenever a claim is denied by DDS with a determination that past work can be done "as generally performed," that should raise a big red flag for the disability lawyer. …
A Tale of Two Claimants
I have developed a subspecialty within Social Security disability law for people age 55 and older. This area of Social Security disability law is notable because the principal issue for many disability claims involving physical impairments is whether or not the claimant can perform his or her past relevant work.
Those applying for…
Claimant is a Nurse – Transferable Skills
The claimant is 60 years old, and has been a hospital nurse for over 25 years. Now, due to fibromyalgia, coronary disease, bilateral carpel tunnel syndrome and other impairments, she can no longer perform her past relevant work as a nurse.
DDS assessed a light exertional RFC. For a 60 year old claimant with an…