After the ALJ makes a finding as to what restrictions a claimant has, the ALJ must determine whether or not the claimant can return to her past relevant work with these restrictions. First, the ALJ must make a finding as to which of the jobs are relevant. Once the relevant jobs are determined, the ALJ shows the requirements of this work.
Determining The Requirements Of Past Work
The ALJ must make a determination as to what work constituted past relevant work. The ALJ must also make a finding as to the physical and mental requirements of performing these jobs. In making these determinations, the SSA relies on a variety of sources. First, they will ask the claimant to submit information on her past work, describing the requirements of her jobs.
Work As It Was Actually Performed And Generally Performed In The Economy
The SSA doesn’t just consider whether you can perform your specific past job. The Administration also looks to see how the job is generally performed in the national economy and whether you could perform the same type of job as it generally exists with other employers. In making this finding, the claimant’s past job will be classified in accordance with information with a publication from the Department of Labor called the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT). The DOT gives information on how the Department of Labor considers jobs to be performed in the economy generally.
Example: One of Jane’s past jobs was as a cashier at a pet store. As part of her job she regularly had to lift 40 lbs. bags of pet food. Having to lift 40 lbs., this job would be considered at the Medium exertional level. However, the Dictionary of Occupational Titles considers the job of cashier to generally be performed at the light exertional level. To prove disability, the claimant must show that she is unable to do the job at the light exertional level as it is described by the DOT.
Can The Claimant Perform Past Relevant Work Given The Residual Functional Capacity Assessed By The ALJ?
Once the ALJ has determined the requirements of the claimant’s past relevant work, she must then look to see if these restrictions preclude the claimant from performing this job. Though it is possible for the ALJ to make this determination on her own, most ALJ’s now rely on the testimony of a Vocational Expert. These vocational experts have special training and experience in labor market and the requirements of different jobs. However, even experts make mistakes. Indeed, many cases hinge on testimony from vocational experts and whether or not they have correctly classified jobs and fully weighed the impact of work restrictions. This is one of the primary areas in which an attorney is able to advocate for a client.