Syracuse disability hearing lawyer

Proving that you cannot do past work at your Syracuse disability hearing

A Syracuse Social Security disability attorney can assist in proving that you are unable to perform past relevant work. At Step 4 of the sequential evaluation process, you must show that you are unable to perform any “past relevant work.” Proving inability to perform past relevant work is a difficult challenge in many Syracuse disability claims. It can be especially crucial in winning disability benefits for claimants who are older than 50. See How your age affects your Syracuse disability claim.

What is past relevant work?

A job is “past relevant work” if:

  • You did the job within the past 15 years.
  • You had the job for long enough to perform it with average ability.
  • The job was a substantial gainful activity. A part-time job can be past relevant work, as long as the job was substantial gainful activity.

The rules regarding past relevant work are stacked against claimants. For example:

  • If you can do a past relevant job as it is ordinarily done, you will be found not disabled even though the job as you did it was harder and you are now unable to do the job as you did it.
  • If you can still do the job the way you actually did it, you will be found not disabled, even if the job is ordinarily more demanding and you cannot do the job as it is ordinarily done.
  • If you can still do a past relevant job, you will be found disabled even if the job no longer exists today or the job does not exist in significant numbers in the national economy.

As your Syracuse disability lawyer, I will need to identify your easiest full-time or part-time past relevant job, and then try to figure out why you cannot still do that job. If during the past 15 years you had an easy job that you can still perform today, then you will probably be found not disabled under Step 4 of the sequential evaluation process. Therefore, I will need to prove that you cannot do your easiest past relevant job, even if that job no longer exists in the economy.

How an experienced Syracuse disability attorney will prove you cannot do past relevant work

If I am your attorney in your Syracuse Social Security disability case, one of the first things I will need to do is determine which, if any, of your past jobs are “past relevant work.” I will need a complete description of all the jobs you have held during the last 15 years, the dates you held them, and the salary you earned.The dates that you held the jobs are important because a job you had more than 15 years ago is not past relevant work. And the dates are important to establish whether you did the job long enough to learn it.For example, Social Security regulations provide that a claimant who has “worked only ‘off-and-on’ or for brief periods of time during the 15-year period” may be considered to have no relevant work experience.The Social Security Administration has an informal rule of thumb that requires that unskilled work be done for three months or more to be considered relevant. Many ALJs use a three- to six-month standard. Semi-skilled and skilled jobs must be done for a longer period to be vocationally relevant.Under a ruling applicable to claimants age 55 and over, a claimant has no relevant work experience if “the work activity performed within this 15-year period does not (on the basis of job content, recency, or duration) enhance present work capability.” A capable Syracuse Social Security disability attorney may be able to apply these principles to cases involving claimants of any age.Your monthly salary is important. If you did not earn enough at the job to make it a substantial gainful activity, it does not count as past relevant work.The exertional and skill levels of the jobs are important to prove you are no longer able to do them.

The testimony of the government’s vocational expert

If past relevant work is an issue in your case, it is likely that the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will ask a Vocational Expert (VE) to testify at your hearing. The ALJ will likely ask the VE these questions.

  1. What were the physical and mental demands of your past relevant work as you performed it?Your own statements regarding past work are generally sufficient for determining the skill level, and demands of the work. But when a vocational expert is at the hearing, the VE is usually asked to describe your past relevant work. A vocational expert may offer evidence concerning the physical and mental demands of past relevant work, as you actually performed it to supplement or help the judge evaluate the accuracy of your description of your past work.
  2. What are the physical and mental demands of your past relevant work as generally required by employers throughout the national economy?This issue comes up when you are unable to do any past job as you actually performed it, but a past job involved demands and duties significantly in excess of those generally required for that job by other employers.
  3. Can you meet the demands of your previous work, either as you actually performed it or as it is generally performed in the national economy?A VE may offer expert opinion testimony in response to a hypothetical question about whether a person with the physical and mental limitations imposed by your medical impairment(s) can meet the demands of your previous work, either as you actually performed it or as it is generally performed in the national economy.The VE’s testimony concerning your past relevant work can create two common problems. First, the VE can say that, despite your limitations, you are capable of performing your past relevant work. Second, the VE could say that the exertional level of your past occupation, as generally required by employers throughout the national economy, is less than the level at which you performed your past job.Effective cross-examination of the VE by an experienced Syracuse disability attorney is essential to overcome these problems.

Assistance is available

Email meProving that a person cannot perform past relevant work is one of the most important ways in which a successful Syracuse Social Security attorney helps claimants in Central New York state obtain their disability benefits. If you are not already represented by a Social Security disability attorney, and you would like an expert evaluation, phone my office, e-mail me, or briefly describe your claim using the form to the right.

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