Thursday, July 21, 2016

Claimant Credibility and Work History

The Social Security Administration (the “SSA”) regulations are only interested in the last 15 years of a disability claimant’s work history because after that time acquired skills are not considered transferable. However, work history in excess of 15 years is important with respect to a claimant’s credibility. The federal courts have repeatedly stated that a claimant with a strong work history justifies the inference that his or her complaints are credible.

A strong work history is essentially objective evidence to support the credibility of a claimant’s testimony at a hearing.  This objective evidence of one’s credibility is important because many cases, such as those involving pain syndromes, fatigue or mental impairments, are based on subjective complaints. The theory is that a claimant with a good work ethic would continue to work if possible.

I represent a 58 year old former collections manager whose Social Security Disability (“SSD”) benefits were approved today because of his work history. While the claimant had two supporting doctors, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) gave their opinions only “some” weight. However, the ALJ was impressed with the claimant’s longstanding work history, and accepted his testimony about the reason why he could not work. 

 The ALJ did not ask the claimant about his work beyond 15 years. I developed the details about the claimant’s entire work history after the ALJ was done questioning the claimant. A strong work history should always be brought to an ALJ’s attention.

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