This probably won’t surprise anyone, but like most encounters with the government, when you apply for Social Security Disability benefits you can expect a blizzard of paperwork and forms to fill out. One of these is a Work History Report (form SSA-3369). For many disability applicants, this form has a significant impact on whether your claim is approved.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) will only approve benefits for claimants who can no longer perform their past work and are unable to work any other job given their age, education, and work experience. Thus, your Work History Report is a critical source of information used by the SSA when determining your ability to work.
Consequently, it’s important to provide details of all past jobs and positions, so the SSA can clearly understand the types of jobs you might be able to do, as well as the jobs and tasks you can’t do. So let us offer you some tips and advice on completing the Work History Report.
Our first and most important piece of advice is: Don’t panic. And the counterpart to this advice is: Don’t get overwhelmed by the report. Just set aside some time and work your way through it slowly and methodically.
Be detailed and thorough describing job duties. 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 Social Security determines how you performed your past work.
Be honest and detailed, so the SSA can’t make assumptions about any of the jobs you’ve had.
You might know what you mean when you write down “laborer,” but don’t assume someone reading this at the SSA does. It’s important to cite all of the tasks you performed in any of your past jobs.
For example, if you worked as a secretary or an administrative assistant, you might state that your job duties required you to work on a computer, answer the phone and greet visitors. However, claimants often make a critical error by leaving out other tasks. You may also have carried boxes of bottled water and placed the drinks in a refrigerator. You may have carried heavy boxes of printer paper and toner to a work room. You may have been asked to drive for work, for example to pick up food for company lunches and functions.
Use accurate job titles. Some claimants cite a past position as being in management—or they were responsible for supervising other employees—when in reality they were simply acting as a mentor for workers on a new project or assisting new employees.
Keep in mind that the SSA looks for skills that are “transferable” to another job or position. Thus, if you state you managed and/or supervised others, Social Security may see these tasks as transferrable skills that can be used in a similar occupation, making it more difficult for you to prove disability.
Be honest, and stick to the facts—the work history report is not a resume. Sometimes applicants think that an inflated title will make them look better to the SSA, but that does not help them. Don’t claim you were a supervisor or manager when you weren’t, and don’t claim skills that you don’t possess.
If you worked part-time, or held a technical or skilled position for only a few months, it’s important to make this clear. As a general rule, if in the past 15 years you worked full-time at a job longer than three months, or held a part-time job for longer than six months and earned over the substantial gainful activity level (more than $1000-$1350 a month depending on the year in which you did the job) then you should include the job on the report. What you should not include on the report are jobs you performed over 15 years ago.
If you are having a hard time reconstructing your job history, look at copies of your taxes, if you have them. Another option is to go to the Social Security website and create a personal account. Once you have created your account (it takes only a few minutes), you will find a list of the amount of money you earned in every year you have worked. Your tax forms or the Social Security list can help you remember your past jobs.
Answer all the questions for each job and never leave a question or a field blank. If there are any unanswered questions on the Work History Report, the SSA will likely send a follow-up request for the information, which will further delay a decision on your disability benefits. If the answer truly is “none,” “don’t know,” or “does not apply,” write that in the appropriate spaces on the form—that’s better than leaving an answer blank.
Pay attention to the deadline, but don’t be alarmed by it. Typically, the SSA says the completed Work History Report must be submitted within ten days from when the form was mailed. It is a good idea to make a good faith effort to meet this deadline. However, there can be mail delays, and the form may not arrive until just a few days before it is due, and in some cases it may even arrive after the deadline. As we said previously, don’t panic. In our experience, the SSA will grant an extension if it is requested.
The accuracy of your Work History Form is a critical component of your claim for Social Security Disability benefits.
Because filling out government paperwork is often a tedious and challenging process, you may feel uncertain about what to include and which details are necessary. We can help. Contact Nash Disability Law for advice and a free evaluation of your disability case.