Can You Do Different Work? The Social Security Administration Wants to Know

An important aspect of the disability claim process involves investigating your work history, education and other aspects of your background to determine if you are still able to do:

  • The work you did before filing for disability benefits.
  • A lighter-duty version of the work you did before filing for benefits.
  • Another kind of work.

It is up to the Social Security Administration (SSA) to decide if you can do a different type of work.

Three Factors the SSA Uses to Decide

When deciding whether an individual applicant can do a different type of work, the following things will be considered:

  1. Previous work history. This includes jobs you’ve held at or near full time for the last 15 years or for a period long enough to be sufficiently trained. The SSA will consider the specific training and knowledge you’ve gained from your prior work experience, your transferable skills, whether there are jobs in your field that you could do with your impairments, and whether there are jobs in other fields—anywhere in the country—that you might be able to do.
  2. Education. The SSA will consider the highest level of education you’ve successfully completed, any specialized training you’ve had, whether you speak English, and whether you can read.
  3. Age. If you are older than 54, the SSA will take that into account when deciding whether you can do a different type of work.

These factors are carefully reviewed by the administrators and judges assigned to your claim. Usually, vocational analysts or experts—professionals trained to understand the current job market—are important to their decisions.

After reviewing your claim, one of two determinations will be made. The SSA will decide that you can perform different work, that you are not considered disabled, and that your claim is denied, or the SSA will decide that you cannot perform or reasonably adjust to different work, that you are considered disabled, and that your claim is approved.

The Burden Is on the SSA to Prove That You Can Do Another Job

Determining whether you can do a different type of work is the last step in your disability determination. While the burden of proof was on you up until this step, it is now on the SSA. However, as with every step of the disability determination, it is important to give the SSA all of the information that it needs to make an accurate decision. For more information about how to do this, read our FREE guide, Social Security Disability: What You Need to Know, today.

Carl M. Weisbrod
Connect with me
Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law