SSR 82-61: TITLES II AND XVI: PAST RELEVANT WORK -- THE PARTICULAR JOB OR THE OCCUPATION AS GENERALLY PERFORMED
PURPOSE: To clarify the policy in determining whether a claimant can perform his or her past relevant work, i.e., whether the claimant retains the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform the physical and mental demands of the kind of work he or she has done in the past.
CITATIONS (AUTHORITY): Sections 223(d)(2)(A) and 1614(a)(3)(B) of the Social Security Act, as amended; Regulations No. 4, sections 404.1520(e), 404.1545, 404.1561 and 404.1565(a); Regulations No. 16, sections 416.920(e), 416.945, 416.961 and 416.965(a).
PERTINENT HISTORY: The part of the law pertaining to past relevant work provides that as a part of the requirements for a finding of disability a claimant must have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment of such severity that he or she is not able to do his or her previous work. Sections 404.1520(e) and 416.920(e) of the regulations state as follows:
- "Your impairment must prevent you from doing past relevant work. If we cannot make a decision based on your current work activity or on medical facts alone, and you have a severe impairment, we then review your residual functional capacity and the physical and mental demands of the work you have done in the past. If you can still do this kind of work, we will find that you are not disabled." (Underscoring added.)
The regulations further state, in sections 404.1565(a) and 416.965(a), that work experience applies (is relevant) when it was done within the last 15 years, lasted long enough for the person to learn to do it and was substantial gainful activity.
A basic program principle is that a claimant's impairment must be the primary reason for his or her inability to engage in substantial gainful work. This reflects the intent of Congress that there be a clear distinction between disability benefits and unemployment benefits. Congress has also expressed the intent that disability determinations be carried out in as realistic a manner as possible.
Three possible tests for determining whether or not a claimant retains the capacity to perform his or her past relevant work are as follows:
- 1. Whether the claimant retains the capacity to perform a past relevant job based on a broad generic, occupational classification of that job, e.g., "delivery job," "packaging job," etc.
- Finding that a claimant has the capacity to do past relevant work on the basis of a generic occupational classification of the work is likely to be fallacious and unsupportable.
- While "delivery jobs," or "packaging jobs," etc., may have a common characteristic, they often involve quire different functional demands and duties requiring varying abilities and job knowledge.
- 2. Whether the claimant retains the capacity to perform the particular functional demands and job duties peculiar to an individual job as he or she actually performed it.
- Under this test, where the evidence shows that a claimant retains the RFC to perform the functional demands and job duties of a particular past relevant job as he or she actually performed it, the claimant should be found to be "not disabled."
- 3. Whether the claimant retains the capacity to perform the functional demands and job duties of the job as ordinarily required by employers throughout the national economy.
- (The Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) descriptions can be relied upon -- for jobs that are listed in the DOT -- to define the job as it is usually performed in the national economy.) It is understood that some individual jobs may require somewhat more or less exertion than the DOT description.
- A former job performed in by the claimant may have involved functional demands and job duties significantly in excess of those generally required for the job by other employers throughout the national economy. Under this test, if the claimant cannot perform the excessive functional demands and/or job duties actually required in the former job but can perform the functional demands and job duties as generally required by employers throughout the economy, the claimant should be found to be "not disabled."
POLICY STATEMENT: Under sections 404.1520(e) and 416.920(e) of the regulations, a claimant will be found to be "not disabled" when it is determined that he or she retains the RFC to perform:
- 1. The actual functional demands and job duties of a particular past relevant job; or
- 2. The functional demands and job duties of the occupation as generally required by employers throughout the national economy.
EFFECTIVE DATE: Final regulations covering this policy were published in the Federal Register on August 20, 1980 (45 FR 55566).
FURTHER INFORMATION: A properly completed SSA-3369- F6, Vocational Report, may be sufficient to furnish information about past work. There may be cases involving significant variations between a claimant's description and the description shown in the DOT. In some instances, an apparent variation may result from an incomplete or inaccurate description of past work. Employer contact or further contact with the claimant, may be necessary to resolve such a conflict. Also composite jobs have significant elements of two or more occupations and, as such, have no counterpart in the DOT. Such situations will be evaluated according to the particular facts of each individual case. For those instances where available documentation and vocational resource material are not sufficient to determine how a particular job is usually performed, it may be necessary to utilize the services of a vocational specialist or vocational expert.
CROSS-REFERENCES: Program Operations Manual System, Part 4 (Disability Insurance State Manual Procedures) sections DI 2041, 2068, 2093, 2105D, 2380D, and 2383A.