TN 2 (09-11)
DI 25005.015 Determination of Capacity for Past Work-- Relevance Issues
SSR 82-62 A Disability Claimant’s Capacity to Do Past Relevant Work, In General
A. Determining if work experience is relevant
Do not consider past work at step 4 unless it is relevant. Past work is relevant if it meets all three relevance requirements (see DI 25005.015B, DI 25005.015C, and DI 25005.015D in this section).
The work must have:
been performed within the relevant period;
been substantial gainful activity (SGA); and
lasted long enough for the claimant to learn to do it.
If the claimant has only worked sporadically or for brief periods during the relevant period, make a reasoned judgment about whether the claimant’s past work was relevant.
See DI 25001.001B.60 of the “Medical-Vocational Quick Reference Guide” for additional information about relevancy requirements.
B. Determining the relevant period
Generally, to be relevant, the past work the claimant performed must have been within 15 years prior to the date of adjudication. However, for some title II claims, the relevant period may end prior to the date of adjudication. See DI 25001.001B.65 for instructions on how to determine the relevant period.
NOTE: When determining the relevant period for a concurrent title II or title XVI claim, the relevant periods and the step 4 determinations for each claim may differ if the title II relevant period ended in the past.
When determining if work is within the relevant period, consider the relevant period to begin 15 years prior to its ending date (e.g., if the relevant period ended 12/20/08, it began on 12/21/93).
Do not consider the date that work was no longer relevant when establishing onset of disability.
EXAMPLE: A 58 year-old, high school educated claimant did an SGA level, unskilled job from 12/01/89 to 10/30/91. The physical and mental requirements of this work are within his RFC. If adjudication were on 01/05/07, this job would not be within the relevant period. Based on an adjudication date of 01/05/07, the relevant period would be 01/05/92 to 01/04/07. The claimant alleges disability onset as of 01/01/05. The claimant has a prior denial for ability to do past relevant work (PRW) dated 07/07/04.
Summary of case facts:
The claimant has no PRW at the time of adjudication. Because the date PRW is no longer relevant is not a factor in establishing onset consider the claimant to have no PRW and proceed to step 5 of sequential evaluation. Assuming all disability requirements are met, make a fully favorable determination at step 5, even though the claimant’s past work would have been within the relevant period until 10/30/06, after his AOD.
Based on the facts above, an allowance would be appropriate on the current filing, however, the adjudicator could not reopen the prior denial for ability to do PRW based on past work no longer being in the relevant period at the current adjudication date.
If any portion of the period the claimant performed past work extends into the relevant 15-year period, the work is in the relevant period and must be considered as part of the step 4 analysis.
Consider work performed prior to the relevant period to be PRW when there is a continuity of skills, knowledge, and work processes between the work outside the relevant period and PRW.
EXAMPLE: The claimant worked on an assembly line making appliance parts from 01/85 to 10/95. In 11/95, he became a line supervisor, and continued to supervise the assembly of appliance parts on the line until 11/09. Based on an adjudication date of 11/01/10, the assembly line job is no longer in the relevant period; however, the supervisor job is within the relevant period and is PRW. The claimant is no longer able to tolerate the level of interpersonal interaction required by his supervisor job due to his mental impairment. He is able to tolerate the level of interpersonal interaction required by his previous job working on the assembly line. Even though the assembly line job was prior to the relevant period, because there was continuity of skills, knowledge, and work processes between the supervisor job and the assembly line job, the adjudicator may find the assembly line job is PRW and determine that the claimant is capable of performing that PRW.
C. Determining if past work was substantial gainful activity (SGA).
Although primary responsibility for development of work activity lies with the field office (FO), the Disability Determination Services (DDS) will need to determine if work before onset was SGA to determine if past work is relevant. In most cases, the DDS is able to determine whether past work was SGA without contacting the FO and can document that determination with a brief statement in the rationale. In cases involving complex SGA issues, the DDS will need to contact the FO for assistance. See DI 10501.020, Special Development Situations.
Resolve issues of SGA as follows:
Use the SGA earnings level that corresponds to the year(s) of the claimant’s work to determine if the work was SGA. See DI 10501.015, Tables of SGA Earnings Guidelines and Effective Dates Based on Year of Work Activity, for SGA earnings levels per year.
Do not use the yearly level for SGA earnings to determine if work was SGA unless the claimant worked all 12 months of the year.
If the claimant worked for less than 12 months, see DI 25001.001B.83 of the “Medical-Vocational Quick Reference Guide” for SGA earnings levels for nonblind claimants based on the number of months worked.
Be alert for SGA issues in disability claims for military personnel. A claimant in the military service who has a severe impairment may continue to receive full pay. Active duty status or receipt of pay may not be SGA. FO assistance may be necessary to resolve SGA issues in disability claims for military personnel.
The DDS will need to obtain FO assistance to determine whether self-employment was SGA. See DI 10510.010, SGA Criteria in Self-Employment.
D. Determining if the claimant worked long enough to learn the job
Find that work lasted long enough for the claimant to learn the job if he or she acquired the information, learned the techniques, and developed the facilities needed for average performance of the job.
Consider the history the claimant provides when determining whether he or she did the work long enough to learn the job.
Use specific vocational preparation (SVP) information only as a guideline to help determine how long it would generally take to learn a particular job.
SVP may not accurately reflect the requirements of the job as the claimant performed it.
If the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) indicates a high SVP level for a particular job, consider the length of time the claimant did the job and the claimant’s education when determining if the work lasted long enough to be relevant.
See DI 25001.001B.78 of the “Medical-Vocational Quick Reference Guide” for additional information on evaluating SVP ratings.
If the claimant performed work that had a continuity of skills, knowledge, and work processes with another job, consider that work when determining if the claimant did the work long enough to learn it, even if the work was outside the relevant period.
EXAMPLE: The claimant’s relevant work period began 02/02/93 and ended 02/01/08. From 01/02/88 to 01/03/93, he was a machinist. Beginning 01/04/93, he became a lead machinist. He did this job until 02/04/94. Although one year may not have been long enough to learn the job of lead machinist, there was a continuity of skills from the claimant’s previous work such that he may have done his lead machinist work long enough to have learned the job.
E. Examples of work that is not relevant
Do not consider the following types of work relevant:
Work that meets the requirements for an unsuccessful work attempt (UWA)
Illegal work (work that was criminal activity), even if it resulted in SGA level earnings
When adjudicating a closed period case, work done during the closed period
When adjudicating a Continuing Disability Review (CDR) case, work in the current period of disability. See DI 28005.015, CDR Evaluation Process—Step-by-Step Discussion
Work in a previous period of disability, if the claimant is applying for expedited reinstatement. See DI 28057.015, Medical Determination Criteria.
F. Examples of work that may be relevant
Decide whether any of the following types of work are relevant by determining whether work was in the relevant period, whether work was at SGA level, and whether the claimant did it long enough to learn it:
NOTE: If the claimant is filing a new claim and applying for expedited reinstatement, the work in the previous period of disability may be relevant for the new claim, but will not be relevant for the expedited reinstatement claim.