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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

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.


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This article is the last in a series regarding how your previous work can affect your Social Security disability claim. We complete the series with an opinion from the highest court in the land, because there is actually a U.S. Supreme Court case regarding "previous work" in a Social Security disability claim. The case is Barnhart