How Does My Work History Impact My Eligibility for Social Security Disability Benefits?

Social Security Disability law firm in Syracuse, NY

If you suffer from an injury or chronic condition that prevents you from working, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits.

However, more is needed to establish your eligibility than just a diagnosis. One of the most critical factors that goes into determining your eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits is your work history. Understanding the interplay between work history and SSDI eligibility is very important for anyone applying for benefits.

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Am I insured for SSDI Benefits?

There are 2 kinds of insured status you must have to be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits:

  1. Fully Insured: To be fully insured, you must have 10 years of credited work or 1 quarter of work credit for each year from age 21 to the age you became disabled. The work need not have been done in any particular year; it must merely meet the required total number of quarters, depending on your age.
  2. Disability Insured: This is a test of recent connection to the workplace. You must generally show 20 quarters or 5 years of work in the 40 quarters or 10 years immediately preceding when you stopped working.

If you are over 31 years old, you must have 20 quarters of coverage out of 40 calendar quarters, before becoming disabled. Another approximate version of the rule is that you have worked and paid Social Security taxes for 5 out of the past 10 years.

What is my work history?

The SSA will consider all "past relevant work" you did in determining your ability to do some kind of gainful work now. But Social Security won't consider every job you ever had in determining your job skills. For a past job to be relevant, all the following must be true:

  • You performed the job within the past 15 years.
  • You were on the job long enough to learn how to do it.
  • You performed the job at the substantial gainful activity (SGA) level (in 2024, this means making $1,550, gross, per month).

When the Social Security Administration (SSA) reviews your application for benefits, it will examine your work history closely. SSA will review the types of jobs you performed before you became disabled, focusing on the physical and mental aspects of your jobs. If SSA decides you can’t perform any of your past jobs, then they decide if you can perform any other type of work given your physical and/or mental limitations.

If you are over 50, you can improve your chances of winning your SSDI claim by providing a detailed work history to Social Security.

Composite jobs, or jobs that you held where you performed a wide range of tasks, can also complicate your claim. For instance, Social Security may see that you held a job where you were both a cashier and a stocker and assume that you could still act as a cashier. Our attorneys are skilled in helping show Social Security which jobs you did in the past really matter and just how much time you spent performing different kinds of demanding tasks.

Need help? We can provide it.

At MCV Law, we understand what information Social Security is looking for when they look at your past work. Our disability attorneys will review your work history carefully with you and help you explain how you performed your past jobs and why you can no longer perform these duties.

In addition, we will develop a strong theory to support your claim and gather medical evidence and opinions from your doctors to prove the severity of your disability and its effects on your ability to work.

We’re here to craft a strategy that’s perfect for you.

We’re here to maximize your chances of having your application for benefits approved by the SSA.

We’re here to help you get your life back.

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