Why are my education and work experience factors in deciding whether my application for disability will be approved?

By / March 3, 2016 / Claims Process / 41 Comments

Learn the importance of your education and work history and see when and how they relate to your Social Security application for disability.

Meeting the Disability Listings
If your medical or psychiatric condition is so severe that it meets Social Security’s Listing of Impairments, the Social Security Administration will not review your education or work history when evaluating your application for disability. Nor will your education or transferable skills from work experience be considered if you are able to return to a past occupation.

When Your Education and Work History Affect Your Disability Claim
If your condition does not meet the Listings, which is often the case, then Social Security evaluates whether or not you are disabled by comparing your physical and mental capabilities to the mental and physical demands of work you have done in the past. If you are unable to perform past occupations, that’s when your education and work experience come into play. If your education and transferable skills from past work prepare you to work in an occupation that is within your health limitations, you are not disabled according to Social Security law and your claim will be denied. On the other hand, if you do not have the education and experience to work in a new occupation that you can physically or mentally perform, your claim will be approved. How education and experience are factored into the evaluation varies depending on whether you are under age fifty, age fifty through age fifty-four or age fifty-five or older.

You can see from this that it is important for you to answer carefully and completely Social Security’s or your attorney’s questions about your work history. When listing your duties, be sure to list all your duties, describing the physical and mental demands of each and why you cannot meet those demands now.

For a more complete discussion of Social Security’s definition of disability and how your application for disability is evaluated, please see our articles What Is Disability According to Social Security Law? and How Does the Social Security Administration Apply Social Security Laws to Determine If I Am Disabled?

Why are my education and work experience factors in deciding whether my application for disability will be approved?
4 (80%) 1 vote

  • K. Hanks

    Hello I have posted before but I am even more worried now. I used to be on SSDI and tried getting off it to work full time. I tried this for less than a year and failed at each full time job I tried. I applied again for SSDI and they said they had to start the process over again. They’ve sent me questionnaires in the mail. The last one I filled out was work history but it was extremely confusing for me to fill out. I tried contacting my rep for my case but his message stated he would be out of the office for most of the time it stated that this had to be returned. The other numbers he gave to call also were sent to voicemail. I went to the office to get help and the lady receptionist turned me away stating my worker wasn’t there and basically no one else could help me. I was really upset because I had messed up on the form and needed a new one. I called the numbers again and got ahold of one of the other reps. He printed me out a new form and said he’d send it out. I said I didn’t have enough time to wait because the first letter took so long to come. I came back and tried to get the form and the same lady tried to stop me again. Luckily the guy showed up with the form cause I called I called from the parking lot. I filled it out the best I could at home and sent it off the next day. It’s been about 3 weeks. I have been checking my ssa account and the payments have been regular and stated I would receive a December payment until I checked today. It nows says I’m no longer receiving payments as of December 2016 and am only getting Medicare. I also got a letter dated November 21st on November 25th stating that they never received the work history and that if I don’t respond and give them the history in 10 calender days from the dated letter that my case could be denied. I called and left a message stating I did send it in. I also reprinted the history and had my husband fax it to the office. Tomorrow is Monday and I have surgery in the morning and will be recovering up to a week. I am very concerned because I haven’t worked in 4 weeks trying to get my meds and everything else straight. I have $32 in my bank account and all my bills are start to be due on the 4th of December. My SSDI was going to help pay them and now according to the website I’m not getting a payment. There was no letter or warning about them stopping? They were scheduled up to about a week ago? I am way worse than I was before and now I wont even be able to pay my bills…

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear K.,

      I am not sure I understand your situation. You seem to be saying that your benefits were continuing up until now, which would not be compatible with having to “start over,” which I would understand to mean filing a new claim. Yet, you also seem to be saying that you were working up to a week or so before the surgery. Please clarify your situation if you can and I’ll try to respond. In the meantime, you might try to reach the representative who was helpful with the form; if payments are possible, maybe he can help get them started again.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  • robertlamarjones

    If they sent my file to disability determantion servers what that mean i give them my school records when i was in specail education an receive help from for mildy student program and my medical records from Mental health

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Robert,

      The information you have received is that your claim is being reviewed to determine whether you are disabled as defined by Social Security law. Be sure to provide any additional information you are asked for.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  • Lisa A Yates

    Dear Kay, I’m 46 years old , 28 years work history in nursing, my Dr disabled me for moderately severe obstruction ,Copd , I applied for disability , I took all my test to them , do you think I will get it I’m young , how long it might take thanks Lisa

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Lisa,

      Please see my response of earlier today to your first question.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  • Karen

    Dear Kay , every time I go to find if you respond to my questions I can not find them .I always remember what article I post them under.

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Karen,

      You may be looking too soon. Your most recent posts were answered earlier today.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  • Karen

    If approved for ssdi how long it take to receive benefits?

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Karen,

      If you do not also have a workers compensation or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim, it typically takes six to eight weeks for monthly benefits to start. Back pay usually takes another month or two after monthly benefits start. All that said, processing times are unpredictable and could it could take longer.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

      • Karen

        I applied for ssi and ssdi thanks Kay

  • Fari

    Hi Kay,
    My husband is 85 years old never worked in the us and don’t have his education here but he is a us citizen getting ssi
    I have 2 questions : I applied for myself to be added to his ssi file & be a couple case two years ago never heard back from them !! I know I am eligible since the only income I have is $580 social security
    The other question is : can he change his ssi to ssi disability based on age & work & education history & how can we do that ?
    Do we need an attorney ?

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Fari,

      Because your husband is not under age sixty-five disability benefits do not apply to him. He is receiving SSI based on age. If you are age sixty-five or older or you are disabled, you can also be eligible for SSI as part of a couple. The couple rate is $1,100. If your Social Security of $580 is the amount of your benefit before withholding for Medicare premiums, once you are on SSI, you and your husband would each receive $270 ($1,100 – $560 / 2) for total income of $1,130. I suggest that you apply again.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  • Hi Kay, today I contact at my attorney’s office and spoke with someone not sure if it was my attorney’s paralegal but they put me through to her I asked her if my high school records would be a good thing to send in because it shows that I had an IEP in high school that I stopped going to school in the beginning of 10th grade my grades are all bad and a tremendous amount of days I missed. I am 43 years old I suffer from major depression generalized anxiety ADHD and mood disorders. Who i had spoke to on the phone told me that the records were not need it because how far back they were. She said something about the odar not needing them I can’t remember exactly what she said about the odar I’m trying to get my claim for a dire need because of my financial situation but because of my disorders I was wondering wouldn’t that be sufficient evidence and do you think I should ask my attorney if I should still turn them in?

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Karen,

      Even though the records are old, they do document a minimal education level and learning challenges, which are considered in determining your ability to work in a new occupation. Accordingly, I would think that they could be valuable to your claim. I do support your talking to your actual attorney to get the attorney’s opinion.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

      • karen

        Kay thanks for your response. I feel the same way to me it gives an idea how long I’ve been dealing with my diagnosis also when I hired them to represent me I had given them my paper on my medications and how they had been changed to higher does and they took that paper now my meds last Friday were some changed and others higher does and the paralegal tells me just hold on to the paper instead of sending it in I’m just curious why not add things to my file when I tell her about things that I feel as though can help my claim to me that’s new evidence.I’m not good right now with holding on to things and keeping order that’s why I try and give them anything I have at the moment so I don’t lose things.I don’t know if it’s too early but I’ve got a gut feeling about this Law Firm I hope it’s not right

        • karen

          The only thing they except to send is the fee agreement and my MRFC that my psychiatrist filled out that clearly states every check off unable to meet competitive standard or no useful ability to function and says can not work

        • Kay Derochie

          Dear Karen,

          Your attorney must have a reason for waiting–maybe to present it at a hearing. In the meantime, try to have one place where you put really important things.

          Sincerely,
          Kay

          • karen

            Thank you Kay

            • Kay Derochie

              You are welcome, Karen.

      • Karen

        Dear Kay, I’m so happy that I found your disability advisor page it really helps me get through this process. How about my attorney just called me and asked would I happen to have any past school records just thought I’d share this with you. thank you for all you do Kay

        • Kay Derochie

          You are welcome and thank you, Karen.

      • Karen

        Dear Kay , My attorneys paralegal last week called me telling me my attorney needs my school records after before the paralegal telling me they were to old. On three occasions I have ask the paralegal has she received documents I mailed back? Her reply was eather .. I know it was here I just saw it , I don’t see it let me see if any body seen it or can you resend it I don’t see it . When ever I call the law firm they direct my calls to her and if I have any questions for her to answer she says .. I don’t know I just started here . My anxiety is already through the roof my hearing a month away. Kay when I go to my hearing can I bring a few documents and thing I may think may be evidents to my hearing just incase?

        • Kay Derochie

          Dear Karen,

          Under the circumstances, I think that is a good idea; but be sure you have also given them to your attorney’s office. In addition, when you get the date of the hearing, you can request to review the list of documents your attorney’s office has been submitted.

          Sincerely,
          Kay

          Sincerely,
          Kay

          • Karen

            Thank you Kay for your reply I spoke with my attorney today and she said I see that you were in special education grade school and high school you also have medical records we are treatments growing up and your mrfc is very supporting from your psychiatrist you also have a long work history. Willl working all my life hurt my claim when I go to my hearing?

            • Kay Derochie

              Dear Karen,

              A strong work history can actually help your claim because it shows that you have a work ethic and would likely be working if you were medically able to.

              Sincerely,
              Kay

          • Karen

            Thank you Kay for your response. I have read that on the actual Social Security Site the judge respects a work ethic but my attorney was questioning me why did I wait so long to apply? Why did I work all these years? I’m thinking my symptoms were not as bad then and always tried for help . I have major depression, adhd and generalized anxiety. How would I answer the judge at my hearing if he questioned my working over the years if he questioned it ?

            • Kay Derochie

              Dear Karen,

              Tell the truth, as you told me, that your conditions have gradually gotten worse, and you hung on working as long as you could.

              Sincerely,
              Kay

  • LeeArtress Heath-Bey

    Hi Kay, I have peripheral vascular disease, which lead to gangrene in my foot. I lost half of my right foot to amputation. I also have ischemic cardiomyopathy and need surgery on my left leg to increasebloodflo. I initially applied in 2014 right after my surgery but only listed my amputation. I was denied within a month because of insufficient evidence. I have applied again after attempting to work unsuccessfully. I have been a self made chef (i didn’t graduate homeschool) since 1999. I’m 40 years old and have lost everything because I can’t work. Do I have a good chance of approval?
    Thanks!

    • LeeArtress Heath-Bey

      *highschool

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear LeeArtress,

      Because of your young age, your partial amputation might not reach disability because you might have the ability to work in a sedentary job (seated) that offered on-the-job training. Therefore, it is likely that the severity of your cardiac condition will determine whether or not you are eligible for benefits.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

  • Michelle Johnson

    I applied for social security ssi ssdi in February 2015
    I was diagnosed with schzophania.I see a trerapist for treatment I have a physc doctor also.the medical examiner called me ask a few question told me she was in charge if the case.she sent me papers to fill out about pain and how do working affect me with my illness.I send it back to California medical office I guess. I think it was address in a yellow postage paid envelope.I wanted to know will I get the disability and how long do it take?

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Michelle,

      I do not know whether your claim will be approved; it will depend on how severely your illnesses affect your ability to function in a workplace. Decisions usually take two to five months.

      Sincerely,
      Kay

      • Jennifer

        I was in a car wreck 1-1-16. My back was crushed in two places. L1 was a starburst fracture in which the bone exploded and parts of it were compressing against my spinal cord. I spent 10 days in the hospital. Six in ICU bc they couldn’t do the surgery right away due to swelling and hematomas. A fusion was done from T11-L3. Fake bone was put in place of my bone bc he had to remove all the pieces during surgery. I’m in a full back brace. In April I rebroke my back due to a fall. I have another compression fracture. I’ve been an X-ray tech for 11 yrs. my job consists of being on your feet , pushing pulling and lifting patients and X-ray equipment. It’s a very physical job. I saw a CE examiner today and couldn’t perform all of the tests. I can barely walk and should be paralyzed. I’m in constant pain and on a lot of medication. Prior to the accident I have herniated discs in my neck along with RA. There’s no way I can work. My legs go numb still and my back and neck are always in excruciating pain. The problem is is I’m only 34. But I’ve been in xray for 11 yrs. what are my chances of being approved? I have three kids. I got a seperation notice when my boss realized I had a new break. I applied in February. I guess the results from this appt will mean whether I’m approved or denied? And if so how long does it usually take?

        • Kay Derochie

          Dear Jennifer,

          If you are able to work in a new occupation for which you have transferable skills or that you can learn on the job, you will not be considered disabled. However, if your condition is severe enough that you can not sustain employment and the incapacity is expected to last twelve months, your claim will be approved despite your young age. The consulting physician’s report will be considered along with the other medical information in your claim file. The consultant has three weeks to submit the report. It can take from a couple weeks to a couple months after that to get a decision depending on how busy your area’s Disability Determination Services is.

          Sincerely,
          Kay

  • DMS

    I am 50 years old, and I applied for disability on 10.18.13 (50th birthday was on 11.26.13) based on multiple impairments, including cervical & lumbar stenosis, scoliosis and severe degenerative disc disease resulting in a number of neurological problems as well as severe & debilitating pain (I don’t have a single intact disc in my back). I also have depression and anxiety, as well as serious cognitive impairments I have developed after a series of closed head injuries. All of this was stated in my application in great detail in my application through my attorney. It has been 5 months, and now I am being asked to attend three different disability exams that will delay a decision another month. I have no income, so any delay is serious. I am wondering why DDS is ordering a mental exam when I have 6 months of psychiatric and weekly counseling records up to last week. This mental exam by itself delays my claim another month. I thought if they had 90 days of records they did not order additional exams. I am worried about my approval as I have no plan B so any delay increases my depression and anxiety considerably. The other exams are physical and breathing. The physical exam makes sense to me as my current records and imaging on my back problems are limited, although abundant up to three years ago when I lost my health care. The breathing exam, I imagine, is because I have bronchiectasis, although that has been well established. The mental exam puzzles me though. Any thoughts?

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear DMS,

      I can offer the general information that consultative examinations are requested to fill gaps in information needed to establish disability. The claims examiner is not going to order and have the government pay for exams that are not necessary for the evaluation of your claim. It may be that each of your conditions alone is not enough to be considered disabling and they want to have a full understanding of all of them to determine whether you are disabled by a combination of conditions. Be sure to attend the exams. The fact that they are ordering examinations means that your claim is actively being worked on and no longer waiting its turn, so that is good news.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  • Callie

    I was approved for partially disability on November 10, 2013 how long does it take to receive a letter and Hong long until I start receiving payments?

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Callie,

      Social Security does not make partial disability determinations, so I am guessing that you received a partially favorable decision, which is likely to mean that they have determined that either your disability has ended or that it began later than you claimed. To answer your question, it can take sixty days or so to receive payment.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  • suzanna

    Hi i apply for my 9 year old son in july 22 2013he got a letter for a speech and Languege exam Nov 2 2013 we attended ..When will we get a respond back

    • Kay Derochie

      Dear Suzanna,

      After the Disability Determination Services (DDS) receive the report from the examination, it has to be reviewed in relationship to all the other information in the claim file. This review is done by a DDS physician and the DDS examiner. It is hard to predict how long it will take for you to receive a physician. However, if they find they need to request other information, I would think the DDS would make a decision within a month or six weeks from now.

      Best regards,

      Kay

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