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  • Writer's pictureStephanie O. Joy, Esq.

Your Past 'Relevant' Work - The Work Duration Rule - It's Important To Your Claim (Part B)

Note: This article/video is for general information only and is not legal advice to any particular reader or individual. For legal advice, you must specifically retain a lawyer who evaluates your specific situation.

Remember, in our Part A of our Past Relevant Work series, we reviewed the Recency Test that limits your PRW to that which you performed in the last 15 years, and what that 15 year period is considered at different points in time. That was #1 of the 3 criteria. This article concerns #2 of the 3 criteria.

To refresh, when you file your Social Security Disability (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim, the SSA paperwork will be asking about your Work History. It asked about some of it in your application and later, will more specifically in your Work History Report. This is because your burden is to prove, among other facts, that you cannot perform any of your past relevant work (PRW). At Step 4 of the Sequential Evaluation Process of determining if you may prevail on your SSD or SSI claim, the question is, "Can you do the work you did previously? "

If you prefer to watch and listen to this article, here you go:

In order for your past work to be 'relevant' to the disability determination on your Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income claim it has to meet certain criteria.

The work must have:

  1. been performed within the relevant period (recency);

  2. lasted long enough for you to learn to do it (duration); and

  3. been substantial gainful activity (SGA).

Let's look at #2. How long must your work in a particular occupation have lasted, to establish that you actually learned how to do it satisfactorily such that you could do it again, skill-wise, without needing to be trained again?

"Duration refers to the length of time during which the person gained job experience. It should have been sufficient for the worker to have learned the techniques, acquired information, and developed the facility needed for average performance in the job situation. The length of time this would take depends on the nature and complexity of the work."

Clearly then, each occupation you performed in the last 15 years, must be considered individually. What is its specific vocational preparation (SVP), (as published by the DOL's Dictionary of Occupational Titles relied upon by the SSA) for such occupation? Did you work in that occupation with one or more employers long enough to have completed that time defined by that SVP?

For example, if you were at an occupation for 1 year only, and that occupation, as per its SVP rating requires 2 years of on the job experience to gain the knowledge/skills of that occupation then, arguably, that is NOT PRW because it fails criterion #2, above.

See also: (DI 25015.015 Work Experience as a Vocational Factor)

Remember, if it IS PRW, and if your RFC is the same as that functional capacity required by the occupation of that PRW, then you may likely be found NOT disabled, because you are able to perform your past work at that occupation. Therefore, eliminating that occupation from consideration in the PRW step of the SSA's Sequential Process, can get you that much closer to a finding of disabled because you move past that step of denial.

This analysis drives home the point also that your Work History Report, those details that come from you, are VERY critical to a proper finding of disabled. If you are not well-learned in the SSA rules on the economy's thousands of occupations, if you are not receiving assistance by someone experienced in the nuances of these laws, you may likely be putting a fork into your case by winging your Work History Report alone.

For consideration for Attorney SSD/SSI representation in an upcoming or pending SSDI/SSI disability claim, please fill out our free Attorney Evaluation form. We do NOT charge a retainer to serve you. If, on the other hand, you only seek an attorney level consultation/analysis of a particular situation, whether you are a company or an individual, or to discuss your own situation without representation, to learn information beyond that information you may obtain for free from the SSA itself, and you do not otherwise have a lawyer representing your before the SSA, you may order a scheduled consultation at affordable attorney rates. Contact the office at 201-317-0610 or email

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