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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

Why does an administrative judge request a review by a vocational expert of the jobs from a claimant’s work record?

It means that the administrative law judge (ALJ) is considering whether or not you can return to your past relevant work at step 4 of Social Security’s sequential evaluation process. After the vocational expert

Sometimes a prior job is actually more than one job at the same time. You were both a nurse supervisor and performed the duties of an RN. You were both a carpenter and a construction supervisor. These are called composite jobs.

In every disability claim, the SSA must determine (at step 4 of the 5-step

Many people who become disabled at or near the age of 62 choose to file a claim for early retirement benefits instead of Social Security disability benefits. This is a usually a mistake, since the Social Security system penalizes people who retire early, at age 62. If you receive Social Security disability benefits instead, you avoid those

Sometimes workers in chronic pain reduce their hours from full-time to part-time to try to stay employed and manage their pain. If this part-time work is above the SGA level, it can cause a problem for an eventual Social Security disability claim.

Social Security considers whether or not you can return to your past

Sometimes a prior job is actually more than one job at the same time. You were both a RN and a nurse supervisor. You were both a receptionist and a filing clerk. You were both a carpenter and a construction supervisor. These are called composite jobs.

If your past relevant work included a composite job, it can cause problems with your Social Security disability claim. The SSA must determine, at step 4 of the 5-step sequential evaluation process, whether you have the residual functional capacity to perform your past relevant work. Not only does Social Security consider your ability to do your past work as you performed it, but also as generally performed. And this is where the composite job can cause problems with a claim.

Typically, in the short space available on the work history report, you only give the job title for part of your composite job. Then you describe what you had to do. Social Security may find that you can’t do the job as you describe it, buy can still do that job as generally performed. The problem is that the “generally performed” analysis does not consider the composite nature of the job. The SSA will just use the job title that you gave in your work history report to determine how the job is generally performed in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT). If that past job was a composite job, this approach is incorrect under Social Security’s own rules.

Continue Reading Past Relevant Work: the Composite Job