Shortly after you file a claim for Social Security benefits, you will receive a form in the mail asking you give details about your past work. Social Security wants to know about the jobs you did during the fifteen years prior to the date you claimed you became disabled. Quite frankly, this form is not that important if you are under 50 years old because you’ll need to show that you cannot do any kind of job. However, if you are over 50 or approaching 50, it’s important to fill this form out correctly because it can make or break your case. (For information on how age affects your Social Security case, take a look at this prior article)
Why Social Security Wants To Know Your Work History
The first thing you need to understand is why Social Security needs to know your work history. In order to get benefits, you have to show that you cannot do your past work or any other work. Therefore, Social Security wants to know the physical requirements of your past job and whether you developed any special skills in that job that would qualify you for another job.
In order to determine whether you can do your past work, Social Security relies on vocational experts to tell them the physical requirements of jobs. These are people who have worked in job placement and have expertise in what different jobs require. Social Security will simply ask the vocational expert if you can do your past work given a set of restrictions. If the vocational expert says you can do your past work, you are not disabled under Social Security’s rules. If you cannot do your past work, Social Security will move on to the next step to determine if there is other work you can do.
Because Social Security is looking at your past work, it’s important to accurately describe your past work when filling out this form. Do not let pride get in the way. If you describe yourself as a supervisor when you were really more of a lead worker, the vocational expert might misclassify your past work and say that it was less strenuous than it actually was. Likewise, really think about how much you had to lift and how much of your time was spent standing and walking. The more strenuous your job was the less likely it is that a vocational expert will say you can do your past work. You should also specifically include the duties that you think you can no longer do.
If You’re Over 50
If you’re over 50, Social Security is also looking at your job description to see if you learned any special skills that would make it easier for you to transition to other work. Again, pride is your enemy here. If your employer gave you an exaggerated title to make your job seem more skilled than it was, then describe the job you did and do not overstate the skill level needed to do the job. If the majority of your job was physical you want to make sure that comes out clearly in your job description. This is not a resume for a job you want. Do not emphasize the customer service skills you developed while waiting tables at Waffle House. If you helped your boss out one time with some paperwork, you were not a clerical worker. Further, even if some of your job involved paperwork, be specific about what you did so the vocational expert does not think you did more than you actually did.
The key to filling out this form is to remember the goal. The goal is to get the disability benefits you need. You need to be honest with yourself about what you did in your job and make sure it does not overstate your qualifications.