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Past work can be used to assess disability benefits applications

When West Virginia workers with disabilities apply for Social Security Disability or SSI benefits, their application goes through a series of assessments in order to determine their current disability and eligibility for benefits. The examiner who reviews each application uses a systematic series of steps to analyze the benefits claim; as a part of this process, the applicant's medical records are studied to establish their mental and physical capabilities. This is used to measure the applicant's residual functional capacity, known as an RFC rating.

For example, an applicant may be considered to have an RFC for light work due to their physical disability. In this case, the applicant would be capable of work that the Social Security Administration considers to be light-duty, which can include frequently lifting 10 pounds and only sporadically lifting 20 pounds. In some cases, an applicant's RFC may be classified as light, but all of their previous jobs involved medium- or heavy-duty labor, requiring the applicant to lift 25 or 50 pounds on an ongoing basis. In such a case, the applicant would not be considered eligible to return to a prior job.

Next, a disability examiner studies whether an applicant would be able to do another type of job based on their skills, knowledge, age, education and other factors. During this process, the applicant's past relevant work is examined over a 15-year period. During this period, all jobs that an applicant had are considered to see whether they could return to any of those jobs given their current status.

In some cases, applicants for Social Security Disability or SSI benefits are denied on the basis of a claim that they could return to their past relevant work. People dealing with an application for benefits might work with a disability lawyer in order to clearly present their case and challenge questionable assertions about past work that do not reflect their current capacity.

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Shawn Taylor, PLLC
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