Must I Be Unable to Perform My Prior Job to Qualify for Illinois Social Security Disability Benefits?
The Social Security Administration evaluates disability claims using a five-step process called the sequential evaluation process. If you are like many claimants, your claim will be scrutinized under Step 4 of the sequential evaluation process. Under Step 4, to qualify for Illinois Social Security disability benefits, you must show that you do not have the ability to perform any “past relevant work.” Proving inability to perform past relevant work is a difficult challenge for many claimants.
An Experienced Springfield Illinois Social Security Attorney Can Help
A knowledgeable and experienced Illinois disability attorney can provide substantial assistance in evaluating a claim for Illinois Social Security disability benefits and in determining whether or not you can perform past relevant work. Donald J. Hanrahan has many years of experience and success representing disability claimants. Of course, each case is different. The results that can be obtained for any particular client in a Social Security disability claim in Illinois will depend on the specific factual and legal circumstances of the client’s case. Nonetheless, statistics show that claimants represented by an attorney fare better than unrepresented claimants.
If you are seeking Illinois Social Security disability benefits and you decide to hire an attorney to represent you, your attorney may need to prove that you are unable to perform your past relevant work.
Definition of “Past Relevant Work”
The term “past relevant work” has a special definition under the Social Security regulations and rulings. Your prior job will be considered “past relevant work” if:
- you performed the job within the past 15 years (or within 15 years prior to the date you were last insured if your Social Security disability insured status has lapsed);
- the job qualified as substantial gainful activity; and
- the job lasted long enough for you to develop the facility needed for average performance.
A part-time job can be past relevant work, as long as the job was substantial gainful activity.
If I represent you, I will need to identify your easiest full-time or part-time past relevant job. Then I will need to understand how your present disability prevents you from still doing that past job. If it was an easy job that you can still perform today, then you will probably not qualify for disability benefits under Step 4 of the sequential evaluation process. Therefore, I will need to show that you cannot perform your easiest past relevant job, even if that job does not exist any more in the current economy.
Many of the rules regarding past relevant work operate so that a claimant will not qualify as disabled. For example, your actual past job need not exist today. The position of the Social Security Administration is that if you are capable of performing a particular past relevant job, you are not disabled. Whether that past job exists in significant numbers today, or exists at all, does not matter to the Social Security Administration. Only your ability to perform it counts.
Our Springfield Social Security attorneys will need to consider every job that you held during the past 15 years. I will also need to know the amount of your earnings from each job. A job at which you earned very little money might not be considered substantial gainful activity, and so it would not count as past relevant work.
Countering Testimony from the Government’s Vocational Expert
If past relevant work is an issue in your case for Illinois Social Security disability benefits, the government’s Vocational Expert (VE) will probably testify at your hearing.
The VE’s testimony could create an obstacle to receiving benefits. For example, the VE might testify that you can perform past relevant work, despite your limitations. In this situation, it will be vital that your Springfield Social Security attorney can show that your impairment prevents you from doing that work.
Making Sure Your Prior Job Really Was Relevant Work
Sometimes, VE testimony can help the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) conclude that past work is not “relevant.”
If I represent you, I will want to determine whether or not any of your past jobs actually qualify as “relevant” work. There are numerous factors to consider. For example, if ten years ago you held an unskilled job for 30 days, it would be so brief a work experience that the Social Security Administration would not consider it “relevant.”
When a VE Asserts That You Can Still Do Past Relevant Work
At your hearing, the Administrative Law Judge may ask the VE whether or not you can do your past relevant work. The VE may respond that you have the ability to do that job. If the judge accepts the VE’s opinion, you will lose your case.
Therefore, it may be necessary for your attorney to pose some important questions to the VE about all of your limitations. For example, your attorney can ask the VE to evaluate specific aspects of your former job duties:
- Didn’t the claimant’s former job involve occasionally lifting up to 30 lbs.?
- Didn’t the judge ask you to assume that the claimant is now incapable of lifting over 20 lbs.?
Assistance Available from an Experienced Springfield Illinois Social Security Attorney
Proving that you are unable to perform past relevant work may be crucial to obtaining your Illinois Social Security disability benefits. If you cannot perform your past work, you are not already represented by a disability attorney and you would like me to evaluate your case, briefly describe your claim using the form to the right. Or you may contact my office at:
Donald J. Hanrahan
Springfield Illinois Social Security disability attorneys
Local phone: 217-789-1200
Toll free phone: 800-640-2789
1119 S. Sixth Street
Springfield, Illinois 62703