When most people begin filling out their Social Security disability benefits forms, they focus on proving beyond a doubt that they suffer from a disability that affects their daily life and that will not improve for at least a year. However, many people do not understand that filling out their work history report accurately and completely is just as important as collecting medical evidence regarding their health condition or illness.
Why Is This the Case?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) is not just interested in how disabled you are—it is interested in how your disability affects your ability to do your job and whether you may have transferrable skills. If you leave information out of your work history report or fail to accurately describe the requirements of your job, you may not get the disability benefits you deserve.
Tips for Filling Out This Section of Your Application
Here are just a few things to think about when you complete the work history section of your Social Security disability application:
- Requirements of past jobs. Be as thorough as possible when filling out this section. Walk yourself through a normal day, noting all activities. Then recall any days that might have been different but still not out of the ordinary.
- Not all physical work requires lifting. Many people are under the misconception that if they don’t lift heavy objects daily, they shouldn’t list anything physical on their work history report. This isn’t the case. Think about the distance you walk every day, how long you are expected to stand, and repetitive actions, along with any physical activity such as typing or other hand, arm, or back movements.
- Your unique disability. Many people attempt to keep working even after they have been diagnosed with a disability or illness. When filling out the work history report, ask yourself what made you stop working—what, specifically, were you no longer able to do, and what caused you pain?
Appropriate details to include:
- Your job title
- The amount of time you held the position
- What the job environment was like
- If you handled money
- If you worked with the public
- How many hours you worked each week
- How long the training period was
- If you required any specialized training or supervision
- Physical duties of the job, including estimates of how much time you spent standing, sitting, walking, squatting, and bending in the course of a shift
- Number of people you supervised, if any
- If you were able to take breaks as you needed to take them
- Why you stopped working
- The main responsibilities and tasks of your job(s)
- Your pay history
- The tools, machinery, and equipment you used
- The knowledge, skills, and abilities that your work required
- The extent of your supervision and the extent of your independence in making decisions
- The speaking, hearing, and vision requirements of your job(s)
Make sure you also list details of any special accommodations your employers may have made for you due to physical or mental impairments.
And Make Sure You Avoid Common Mistakes
As you complete your application, it is important to avoid mistakes such as:
- Not listing all of your past employment requirements. Especially when you look back 15 years, you may not be very descriptive when listing the day-to-day requirement of your old jobs. However, it is absolutely vital that you make a thorough, complete list that covers all of your responsibilities and physical tasks.
- Listing jobs that aren’t sustainable, gainful activities. Part-time work that doesn’t result in significant income should not be listed on your employment history, even if you’ve done it for years. These jobs are not counted as relevant work.
- Not listing all of your job’s physical requirements. Really think: what is the heaviest object you had to lift at your job? How long did you have to walk, sit, or stand? What repetitive movements were required of you?
- Not explaining why your disability affects your employment. The main reason for the work history form is to understand what work skills you have and why your disability affects your employment. Be sure that this point is clear.
These may seem like minor details to you but sometimes your entire case can turn on specific information like this.
If you fail to provide this information, your request for Social Security disability will be denied.
If you are still unsure of how to correctly fill out your work history report, or if you have other questions about how you can best complete your Social Security disability application, you may benefit from speaking with us. We can help you avoid common mistakes and make sure that your application is as complete as possible before applying for benefits. Just use the live chat option on this page or call us at 800-800-6353 to learn more.
by Paul B. Burkhalter Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.