Monday, January 14, 2008

What does social security mean when they say you can return to your past work?

What does it mean when you are told by Social Security that you can return to your past work? Basically, it means a series of things:

1. Your medical records have been evaluated and a determination has been made regarding your relative ability to engage in activities of daily living and, thus, work activity. This determination is called an RFC, which stands for residual functional capacity. An RFC is a measurement of what you can and what you cannot do. A common RFC will state that an individual is capable of performing medium work (for the most part, this boils down to the ability to lift fifty lbs occasionally and twenty-five lbs frequently).

2. The RFC you were given (by either a disability examiner or disability judge) was measured against your work history. This may sound complicated, but in actuality it is fairly simple. For example, a claimant whose work history was composed of heavy labor work and who was given a medium RFC rating by social security would not be able to return to their past work.

By the same token, an individual who was given a medium RFC rating (i.e., a retriction to medium exertion work activity) but had a history of light exertional work would be judged to have the ability to return to their past work.

As you can see from this discussion, whether or not you are approved for disability or denied for disability may hinge on two separate factors.

Those factors are A) what the social security administration considers your functional limitations to be and B) The types of jobs you have done in the past. In either case, however, a disability decision will largely depend on the information you provide to social security.

In the case of your work history, SSA will depend on you to describe the jobs you've done in the past.

Obviously, giving an accurate and complete description of your past jobs can make a difference. Describe a job wrong and there is the possibility that it may be classified incorrectly and affect the decision on your case. A good example of this is "truck driver". There are many types of jobs that are classified as "truck driver". However, some of them are classified by the social security administration as medium exertion (such as tractor-trailer truck drivers) and some are classified as light exertion. How will social security know what type of truck driver job you had if you only write "truck driver" on the disability application. The fact is, they may not.

Providing information is equally important when it comes to your medical record documentation. Disability examiners are the individuals who actually work on disability claims for the social security administration and part of what they do is gather your medical records. However, they have to rely on the information you supply about the doctors and hospitals who have treated you. For this reason, you really need to supply complete information regarding your treatment, including facilities, names of treating physicians, diagnoses received, and dates of treatment.

And, for the same reasons, of course, you want to provide social security as much information about your work history as possible. If you only provide a sketchy history and leave out the details of your past work, it is possible that your work will be classified incorrectly, thus allowing the potential to negatively affect your decision.

When it comes to SSI claims and SSD claims, alway remember: provide full and accurate information.

Return to the Social Security Disability SSI Benefits Blog