Filing My Work History Report for Social Security Disability — Do’s and Don’ts

How well — or how poorly — your Social Security Disability application is put together can have a huge impact on whether you win benefits.

A critical piece of this is providing the most effective answers on Social Security’s Work History Report (SSA-3369-BK).

Social Security Disability benefits could provide a financial lifeline when a significant, ongoing medical condition keeps you from your most recent job or other work.

And the Work History Report helps the Social Security Administration (SSA) see how your medical condition affects your ability to work:

· It shows claims examiners what sort of work you’ve done during the past 15 years, including your job skills and experience.

· It shows what sorts of physical and mental activities your past work required and your ability — or inability — to adjust to other work in light of your health issues.

When you’re not able to work due to medical problems, you’re already frustrated. You’ve got plenty to worry about — putting food on the table, paying your rent or mortgage, getting the medical treatment you need, probably more.

But try to take special care when you’re applying for Social Security Disability benefits. You don’t want to do anything that causes your application to be delayed, or even worse, denied, adding to your frustrations.

In more than 30 years of working with Social Security Disability applicants in my California law firm, I’ve seen over and over again how strong answers on the Work History Report can make a difference.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Filing Your Work History Report:

Do —

— Make sure you’re using the current, complete version of the form. Check the version date in the bottom-left corner. It should be within the last year or two.

— Print or type responses and use only black or blue ink (not a problem if filing online).

— Answer all questions about each job you’ve had.

— Answer every question on the form. Respond “none” or “does not apply” if you have to, but never write “don’t know.”

— Offer more comments where a question asks for an explanation, but also where you think an explanation would be helpful.

— Use the “Remarks” section if you need more space to answer any question. Be sure to list the number for the question to which the information pertains.

— Hire an experienced attorney who can make sure your answers provide what the SSA needs. Get a lawyer who is familiar with the Social Security offices in your area and knows all the other parts you need for a successful claim. Having a lawyer increases your chance of winning benefits. And generally, you pay no fee until you win.

Don’t —

— Provide incomplete, less-than-detailed information about your various jobs’ requirements.

If you mostly answered the phone and did paperwork at a desk, but were also responsible for putting heavy boxes on shelves in the inventory closet, don’t fail to include this.

Be specific. For example, explain that you regularly lifted “5–10 boxes weighing 75 pounds or more onto shelves waist-high or higher.” Explain that you did this daily, or several times a week.

This demonstrates much greater physical requirements than just staying you, “Mostly answered the phone, did paperwork.”

— Generalize, such as, “Did office work on a computer.”

What sort of computer work — filled in blanks on existing forms, or built spreadsheets that others used?

You can type, but do you hunt and peck or can you type 50 words a minute? 100 words a minute?

If a claims examiner gets the wrong idea about your skills and abilities, he or she may assume you’re more employable at some other job than you actually are.

— Leave a spot blank. It’s better to put some answer than none.

Don’t leave examiners with more questions, or making wrong assumptions. The more specific, appropriate information they have, the better your chance of getting a faster decision, and one supporting your need for benefits.

— Fail to get a lawyer experienced with Social Security Disability claims working for you, one who knows the application process and knows the local Social Security judges, medical examiners and the system in your area.

How to Add Credibility to Your Application

In addition to the type of work you’ve done and your skills, a long work history adds weight to your claim for disability benefits.

If you can show you worked for many years, a Social Security judge is more likely to view you as a hard worker, not someone looking for a handout.

The other major part of your application is submitting the right medical evidence from your doctor visits.

Combining your work history with your medical evidence is what makes a successful disability claim.

And you risk little by getting experienced legal help with your claim.

Most Social Security Disability law firms, including my office, offer free consultations on your case. Social Security Disability lawyers generally get paid the same.

They only get paid when you win — and only for a portion of the back benefits you’re awarded.

Angelina Valle, with Angelina Valle & Associates in the San Jose, California, area, has more than 30 years of experience practicing disability law. She’s helped countless people win their disability cases. She’s passionate about helping people with disabilities who are in need.