A claimant needs to show that she or he is no longer able to perform his or her job in order to qualify for a disability retirement pension under the New York City Employee Retirement System (“NYCERS”). By contrast, to qualify for Social Security Disability (“SSD”) benefits, a claimant usually needs to show that he or she is unable to perform any other work. While these are different standards, a favorable NYCERS decision could be helpful when applying for SSD benefits.
An SSD claimant must show that he or she cannot do past work before having to show that he or she cannot do any other work. If a claimant qualified for a NYCERS disability pension then logically that would satisfy the burden of proving an inability to do past work. It would be very difficult for the SSA to argue that it is in a better position to assess a claimant’s ability to work than that person’s actual employer, the City, and its medical board. Therefore, a favorable NYCERS decision shifts the question to whether the claimant can do any other work.
Under certain circumstances, a NYCERS decision that a claimant is entitled to a disability retirement pension effectively requires a finding that the claimant is entitled to SSD benefits. For example, SSD claimants who are over 50, performed non-sedentary work for the last 15 years, and lack transferable skills, are entitled to SSD benefits. Today I received approval of SSD benefits without a hearing for a 56 year old physician, just two weeks after submitting his NYCERS decision. The SSA agreed that the claimant could not perform his past work, had no skills that are transferable to sedentary work, and therefore concluded that the “vocational-medical rules” required that he be found disabled.
While a NYCERS decision is not binding on Social Security, it is persuasive, and can expedite a favorable decision.