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How does a person's past work impact whether they are disabled?

One of the most significant parts of Georgia residents' lives is their career. Individuals often place a great deal of importance on their jobs, and the same is true with respect to the Social Security Administration when a person has an inability to work and applies for Social Security disability benefits.

As discussed previously in this blog, the Social Security Administration uses a five-step process to determine if someone is disabled. Step four of that process examines a person's ability to perform the work he or she used to perform in the past. The agency will examine a variety of factors to determine whether the individual can still perform past work, including how the person performed the job and what skills were learned in that job, because a person may not be considered disabled under the federal regulations unless the person is prevented from performing this past work or other work.

For example, the agency will examine how the person's medical condition affects his or her ability to physically perform work activities like standing, sitting, walking, pushing, pulling and carrying. Likewise, the agency will also analyze how the condition affects the person's ability to tolerate environmental conditions like temperature extremes, noise, dust or odors, as well as the person's ability to see, hear and speak. Ultimately, through consideration of these and other factors, the agency is trying to determine what work activities the person can do with the medical condition.

By examining the person's past work and comparing it to the person's current ability to perform basic work activities, the agency will then determine whether the person can perform the past work with the medical condition. If the agency determines the person can still do the past work as he or she did before, then the agency will find the person not disabled. Likewise, if the agency determines the person can do the past work as it is generally done in the national economy, the person may be found to be not disabled. Otherwise, the agency will proceed on to the fifth step in the analysis to determine whether the person can perform other work.

Source: Social Security Administration, "Information we need about your work and education," accessed on Nov. 21, 2015

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