3.3 Work History


Worker Checking Employment History

To receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you must have worked a total of five of the past 10 years. The SSA breaks this down by each financial quarter, giving you a “work credit” for every three-month period that you were gainfully employed. If you have 20 credits over the last ten years, then you’ve fulfilled the work requirement of SSDI eligibility. If you haven’t been in the workforce for 10 years, the 5-year rule will still apply. To receive SSDI benefits, you must have a total of 20 work credits, even if that’s the maximum you could possibly have.

Past Relevant Work

The SSA will also look at your work history to determine what jobs you were able to perform and what jobs you may still be able to do, despite your disability. Vocational experts, or people who have a deep understanding of your line of work, will give an opinion on your residual functional capacity, or RFC. Your RFC is what you are still able to do on any job despite your disability.

When considering RFC, the potential jobs that you might transition to must not be drastically different from the jobs you’ve done in the past. If your work history contains only physical labor or jobs with limited skillsets, you may not be able to get a job that requires new skills or qualifications. For example, you cannot move from your welding job of ten years to a desk job as an accountant if you don’t have a financial background or the proper certifications. In other words, you would still need to be competitive in the new job after a disability has taken you out of your old one.

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