TN 4 (03-15)

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 relevancy requirements listed below.

The work must have:

  1. been performed within the relevant period;

  2. been substantial gainful activity (SGA); and

  3. 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 20 CFR 404.1565(a) and 416.965(a) and SSR 82-62, A Disability Claimant’s Capacity to Do Past Relevant Work, In General for additional information on applying this policy. When finding sporadic or brief periods of work are not relevant, document your reasoning in the record so a subsequent reviewer will know the basis for your judgment. .

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 (the date of the determination or decision at any level of review). However, for some title II claims, the relevant period may end prior to the date of adjudication. See DI 25001.001A.64 of the “Medical-Vocational Quick Reference Guide” for instructions on how to determine the relevant period for different types of claims.

NOTE: When determining the relevant period for a concurrent title II or title II and title XVI claim, the relevant periods and the step 4 determinations for each claim may differ if the title II relevant period ended prior to adjudication.

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 12/20/14, it began on 12/21/99).

IMPORTANT: Do not consider the date that work was no longer relevant when establishing onset of disability.

EXAMPLE: A 60-year old, high school educated claimant did an SGA level, unskilled job from 12/01/93 to 10/30/98. The physical and mental requirements of this work are within his RFC. All of his other work required greater lifting and carrying than his RFC allowed. If adjudication were on 01/05/14, the job that is within his RFC would not be within the relevant period because the work ended more than 15 years prior to adjudication.

Based on an adjudication date of 01/05/14, the relevant period would be 01/05/99 to 01/04/14. The claimant alleges disability onset as of 01/01/10. The claimant has a prior denial dated 07/07/11 for ability to do the past relevant work (PRW) he performed 12/01/93 to 10/30/98. The work was within the 15-year relevant period at the time of the 07/07/11 denial, but at the time of the 01/05/14 adjudication, it was no longer in the relevant period.

Summary of case facts:

  • Relevant period 01/05/99-01/04/14 (adjudication 01/05/14)

  • Alleged onset date (AOD) 01/01/10

  • PRW 12/01/93 to 10/30/98

  • This work was no longer relevant 10/29/2013

  • Prior denial for ability to do PRW 07/07/11 when the work was in the relevant period.

The claimant had no PRW within his RFC at the time of adjudication on 01/05/14 because the only work he did within his RFC was no longer relevant as of 10/29/13. The adjudicator proceeded to step 5 of sequential evaluation. An allowance was appropriate based on the medical-vocational rules. The claimant met the disability requirements as of his AOD; however, it was not possible to reopen the prior denial determination of 07/07/11 because the DDS appropriately denied for the case for ability to do PRW. The adjudicator awarded an established onset date as of 07/08/11, the day after the prior denial. Because we do not consider when past work was no longer relevant when we establish onset, the day after the prior denial was the correct onset date even though the claimant’s past work would have been within the relevant period until 10/29/13 (after his EOD).

IMPORTANT: 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//01/92 to 10/31/99. On 11/01/99, he became a line supervisor, and continued to supervise the assembly of appliance parts on the line until 11/20/06. Based on an adjudication date of 12/30/14, 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.

IMPORTANT: 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. If it meets the other criteria for PRW, consider it at step 4 of sequential evaluation.

EXAMPLE: The claimant worked as a cashier from 01/20/96 to 12/10/2000. If the DDS adjudicates the case on 01/20/15, the claimant’s cashier work is within the relevant period.

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 to determine its relevance 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.

NOTE: The instructions in DI 24001.005A Work Activity Development Responsibilities, and DI 10505.003B.1.b. Evaluating and Developing Earnings that Clearly are or are not Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) do NOT apply for determining if past work met the SGA requirement for relevancy purposes.

Resolve issues of SGA for claimants who were not self-employed 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.84. of the “Medical-Vocational Quick Reference Guide” for SGA earnings levels for nonblind claimants based on the number of months worked.

  • If the claimant reports hours worked per week and pay per hour, multiply pay per hour by hours worked per week. Multiply the result by 13/3 (4.333) to determine a monthly rate.

  • 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.

For cases in which the claimant was self-employed and:

  • the Expedited Vocational Assessment at Steps 4 and 5 in DI 25005.005 do NOT apply, and

  • the claimant has self-employment performed in the relevant period, that lasted long enough for the claimant to learn the job, is within the claimant’s RFC, and

  • the claimant is not able to do any other PRW.

The issue of the relevancy of self-employment is material to the disability determination.

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 learned the techniques, acquired information, and developed the facility needed for average performance of the job. The length of time this would take depends on the nature and complexity of the work. See SSR 82-62 A Disability Claimant’s Capacity to do Past Relevant Work, in General.

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 25001.001A.77 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 worked from 01/02/88 to 12/20/99, as a machinist. Beginning 12/21/99, he became a lead machinist. He did this job until 02/01/01. Adjudication date was 01/01/15, at which time the claimant’s machinist job was no longer relevant, however, his lead machinist job was still in the relevant period. Although a little over 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:

  • Volunteer work (meaning the claimant did not receive any pay or in-kind support for the work),

  • Work that meets the requirements for an unsuccessful work attempt (see POMS DI 24005.001 Unsuccessful Work Attempt (UWA)),

  • Illegal work (work that was criminal activity), even if it resulted in SGA level earnings,

  • 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, or

  • Work in a previous period of disability, if the claimant is applying for expedited reinstatement. See DI 28057.015 Medical Determination Criteria.

NOTE: Work performed during a previous period of disability, even work performed under TWP, EPE, or 1619 provisions could be relevant work for a new application, but would not be relevant in an expedited reinstatement determination.

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 cl