The Importance of Being Accurate When Describing Your Work History to Social Security

February 10, 2015

The process of applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits can be daunting and requires you to fill out a lot of forms. You must follow all the steps regardless of whether you’re applying on your own or with the help of a lawyer.

At times, it may be difficult to remember things or just frustrating trying to piece together your life story in the space provided on a few pages. However, making an effort to be careful can certainly help you out a lot. A great example of this is when you’re completing the Work History Report.

The Work History Report asks you for information about jobs you have worked in the past 15 years. You are also asked to provide information about how many hours per week you worked, what you were paid, how much lifting you did, how much standing you did, and so on. This information is part of how the Social Security Administration (SSA) determines the exertion level of your past work, and that is a very important part of most cases.

Folks sometimes struggle with completing the whole Work History Report, but if you leave it to the decision-makers to guess at how much you were lifting based upon the job title you wrote down, they will not try to do you any favors. Your case may hinge entirely on the type of work you’ve done in the past, so getting it right is important. You might know what you mean when you write down “laborer,” but don’t assume the SSA does.

You don’t want to leave anything off the form, but you also don’t want to include jobs that are too old. That can confuse the decision-makers into thinking you have done a certain type of work recently and might be able to go do it again, and for some cases that can be the difference between an approval and a denial.

I had a case recently where my client had worked for years as a child welfare aide. Part of her job involved riding a bus with special needs students, but she also frequently had to lift children to help transport them, exerting a whole lot of energy. There was no question that her health made it impossible for her to do that work anymore. However, she had also once worked a job where she just rode a bus to supervise children. She was denied on the belief that she could still do that lighter duty job even with her health troubles.

I share this story because, in reality, her lighter duty school bus monitor job was something she had done more than 15 years ago. It could no longer be considered part of her past work, but she had mistakenly listed it on her Work History Form. Fortunately, we were able to identify this as one of the problems in her case and ultimately managed to get her claim approved by pointing this out to the judge at her hearing. It worked out, but it was one more barrier to victory and there are already enough barriers in this process.

Don’t let your claim suffer because of a form that you didn’t feel like spending time on when you applied for benefits two years back. Think hard about what years you started and ended a job and exactly what you did on the job. If you can’t remember everything, see if someone you know can help jog your memory. That job light duty job you worked in 1997 should not have an impact on your claim today, but it will if you rush through your paperwork and mistakenly say that you did it in 2001.

If you’re applying for Social Security Disability and need help with your Work History Form, give us a call. At Nash Disability Law, we’re always ready to help you.