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Many people seeking Social Security Disability benefits in Illinois know they must support their claims with ample medical documentation. However, many of these people overlook the importance of providing a detailed work history.

An attorney Social Security professional can explain that the Social Security Administration examines the disability and the way it affects the applicant’s ability to work. Specifically, the SSA evaluates whether the applicant could return to a past job or use skills from a prior job in a new context. Thus, documenting work history poorly can greatly increase the risk of claim denial.

Past relevant work

Before gathering work history, people applying for SSD should understand what information the SSA needs. The SSA does not weigh every job an individual has held. Instead, a claims examiner considers all work performed in the last 15 years, including seasonal and part-time employment. Jobs that were too short-term to produce relevant skills are not counted as past relevant work.

Non-work activity, such as volunteer work, is not considered past relevant work. Similarly, jobs yielding income below the substantial gainful activity level are not taken into account. This threshold changes annually; in 2014, monthly income over $1,070 constituted SGA. Finally, work trial periods or other work attempts are not viewed as past relevant work.

The claims examiner will review all past relevant work and consider how it compares to the applicant’s current capabilities. The examiner may deny the claim if the applicant appears to have skills or experience relevant to the work he or she is currently deemed capable of.

Preparing the application

When documenting employment history, disability applicants should not simply provide the company name, position held, dates worked and contact information. This may give the claims examiner a poor idea of the responsibilities and skills associated with each job. Applicants should provide all of the following information:

  • Hours and income. This indicates whether the job qualifies as past relevant work.
  • Duration of job training. Specialized training should also be recorded.
  • Physical and mental requirements. Unique job duties that employees in similar positions did not perform should be noted.
  • Physical constraints. Applicants should specify whether employers provided accommodations or allowed employees to stand, walk or sit as needed.
  • Special aspects of the job. These could include using advanced equipment, overseeing others, handling money or working with the public.

SSD applicants should never exaggerate job responsibilities. This can make an applicant seem well-suited to various other types of employment. At the same time, applicants should not downplay job duties. Dishonesty can also lead to claim denial. Many applicants may benefit from working with an attorney to create an accurate, detailed employment history before submitting the application.