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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.

I had a recent disability hearing for a 60-year old client with significant physical impairments. Throughout several conversations with him, he was emphatic that his past relevant work had been solely as a carpenter, for several different employers. He had always been in construction, he said, and it had taken a toll on his body.
It was pretty clear from the medical record, and an opinion I obtained from his primary care physician, that given his physical limitations he could no longer work as a carpenter, which is a Medium to Heavy exertional occupation.
A 55+ year old person who can no longer perform his or her past relevant work, and lacks job skills that transfer to a range of skilled work within his RFC (and has no recent education allowing direct entry to skilled work), would be found “disabled” at the Light exertional level according to the Medical-Vocational Guidelines. So I was feeling good about the prospect of an award of disability benefits for this client.


Continue Reading Look at the DEQY

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.

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

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. 


Continue Reading Don’t Forget the Vocational Evidence