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SSA Work History Report


The Work History Report is another of the crucial SSA forms that Attorneys and non-attorney representatives don’t pay enough attention to. And if you don’t pay enough attention to this, it’s likely your case will be denied because you’ll have listed transferable skills that you actually don’t realistically have! Yes, the redundancy in that sentence was intended.

When you first file a claim for Social Security benefits, the Initial Application process involves a non-medical component, and a medical component. This is the case whether you do it online by yourself, or call your local Social Security Field Office and do a telephone interview.

After you complete the non-medical component, the SSA algorithms transition you to the medical portion. In prior years before the internet, this was accomplished by completing what the Agency calls the Adult Disability Report. The actual paper form still exists and it’s still called the Adult Disability Report (SSA-3368-BK). In fact, it was just updated by the SSA in November 2020.

At about page 6 of this form, you will be asked to list all the jobs you’ve had in the last 15 years. In the following pages, you’re then going to be asked for brief description of the work you did, how long you were sitting, standing, and the weight and types of things you lifted. You will be asked if you use technical knowledge, completed reports, and supervised other people, etc. They will give you 5 lines in which to do it. It will be quite tedious.

Understanding The Importance Of These Forms

When you’ve completed the online application, your file will then get routed to the Disability Determination Services (DDS). All the information you gave them about your work will be part of the packet that is sent to DDS.  That doesn’t really matter, because very often, they too will send you a separate Work History Report, which is form SSA-3369.

The letter from the Examiner will indicate that you have 10 days to return the Work History Report. When you look at the date stamped on the letter, you’ll realize it has already been about nine days, and you might start to panic. There is time to panic, but not just yet.

Once you delve into this form, you’ll realize that you were already asked all of these questions. You are probably wondering why you’re being asked to complete all these questions again. The answer…they are looking for transferable skills, and you need to be very careful.

Unfortunately, many Attorneys tell clients do the best they can and really don’t give the time of day that are necessary on these forms. If you’re under age 50, completing the Function Report is not as critical as it is if you’re over age 50.  Why? Because if you’re age 49 or younger, transferability of skill is not an issue in the definition of Disability. At that age, we have to prove that you can’t perform unskilled, seated, dead-end jobs that we talk about in other sections of this site.

However, as you age, transferability of skill becomes a much more critical issue. When you turn 50, transferability of skill is a little more relevant than it was at age 49. When you turn age 55, it becomes much more relevant. And finally, at age 60, it’s most critical, as the SSA Regulations indicate that your skills must be so easily transferable as to mimic and employ the same tools, same work processes, same industry, etc. This is why it’s critical that these forms be given the appropriate time and attention they deserve. If you’ve received a Function Report and you want our help, give us a call. If you don’t have an Attorney or other representation, we can talk to you.

Very often, our clients have unskilled jobs with fancy titles like Supervisor, etc. When we take a deep dive into the job, the tasks, and the responsibilities, it’s clear that these were fancy titles. We’ve got to be careful, because fancy titles can unrealistically inflate skills that you don’t have and suggest transferability that doesn’t exist.

For example, many people tell us they were a Supervisor of some kind, or a foreman. People think they were a lead worker and by asking pointed questions, it turns out they weren’t. Supervising means what it says…supervising. It means you assisted and led co-workers with work processes, training, terminology, and workflow etc.  If you’re hiring and firing people and providing input into their work performance and work evaluations, you were probably a supervisor. If you didn’t, you were most likely not.

To appreciate and understand transferable skills in a real work example, let’s take a Commercial Pilot for example. Under the Directory of Occupational Titles, you will find that title at (DOT 196.263-014). A Commercial Airline Pilot is a Skilled job at the Light exertion level. Under the DOT, it has a Specific Vocational Profile (SVP) of 8, which is the highest in the DOT and in American Labor. Light exertion means that in an eight-hour day, they’re standing for more than two hours. Even though they’re sitting in a cockpit flying the plane, they’re actually walking for more than two hours in a shift or day. Whether it’s from one terminal to the other, or from the Airport to the hotel, which is part of the job, they’re on their feet for more than 2 hours giving it a Light exertion.

Attorneys by contrast, are dramatically different creatures than Pilots (in more ways than one). You’ll find that title at (DOT 110.107-010).  An attorney also has a SVP of 8, but our job is generally performed at the Sedentary (seated) exertional level.

Now if you’re a Pilot or an Attorney and you’re age 49 or younger, then it doesn’t really matter that your past job was Light or Sedentary, because you have to prove that you can’t do an un-skilled Sedentary (seated) job.

However, if you’re age 55 or older, the analysis is quite different. The most important aspect about a Pilot’s job is that those skills learned and utilized as a Pilot are not transferable to any other jobs other than another Pilot job. While a grounded, disabled Pilot may have transferable skills to fly a simulator, airplane simulator jobs do not exist in significant numbers in the national economy. You might say to yourself, what about a baggage handler? That job is also performed at the Airport. Sure, while that occupation is generally performed at an airport, bus, or train depot, and even a hotel, it’s tasks and skill level are radically different from those of a Pilot. That job is generally performed as an unskilled job with an SVP of 2, not 8. It’s also performed at a more strenuous exertion level like Medium, or even Heavy. All of these items, terms, and definitions really matter as you age.

The same can’t be said of the Attorney. By contrast, the Attorney would have several transferable skills that can easily be transitioned to either the Light exertion, which is more strenuous than Sedentary, or skills that stay within the Sedentary exertional level of the Attorney’s past work.

This is where attention to detail, and deep knowledge of the Work History Report and transferable skills is critical. At the Social Security Law Group, our technology will allow you to give us a very detailed description of the job that you performed, and we are going to ask you to be as detailed as possible.

Often, your job description will not fit in the four lines that they have allotted in the Work History Report. Hence, our speech-to-text software will be very critical in ensuring that you complete that form accurately, truthfully, but most importantly, highlight what you did, and more importantly highlight exactly what you didn’t do.

We can’t resist, so let’s look at some examples.

This individual indicated that he worked at a hotel at both the Front Desk, and in Maintenance. That seemed odd to us. Generally, hotels have Front Desk personnel who are dressed appropriately with company uniforms, nametags and a boat load of training. They interact with the public, have to answer phones, coordinate reservations, and generally provide good customer service.

Maintenance personnel on the other hand are dressed in Dickies® and work boots. They barely have any contact with hotel guests, and are essentially doing dirty, heavier exertional work tasks.  When we took a deep dive and saw the salary. This individual was being paid $8.50/hr.  Something is very wrong there and when we asked focused questions, it turns out that he was a unskilled maintenance guy who occasionally was at the front desk to answer questions and run up to the rooms to inspect damage, and swap irons.

He called himself a lead worker, and we’re sure his Supervisor’s did as well, but the pay scale tells you everything you need to know. Unfortunately, we weren’t there when the Work History Report was completed, and had to spend a lot of time during the hearing, dumbing and necking down the skills that he actually had, and the tasks he actually performed.

Here is another one. She said she worked at a help desk for a printing company, and worked with the Engineers as they were trying to field calls for troubleshooting. The goal was to slowly and accurately improve the quality of the units they produced as complaints and repairs were resolved. That appears to be a lot of transferable skill, and it appears to be at the Sedentary exertional level. After a deep dive, it turns out that she only worked there for about a month and a half. Under the regulations, that’s not long enough to qualify for any transferable skills acquisition. You may think your job was skilled, and it just may have been. But if you don’t know how these regulations are applied, you might have answered these questions inaccurately and inadvertently slipped on the banana peel of a denied claim. Don’t try this at home.

Finally, we think it’s important that you know the difference between a trait and a skill. Because there is a difference, and it does matter. As your Attorney, we also have to be very careful in the distinction between traits and skills. If you’re a cashier, and the order comes out to $37.40, and the customer hands you two $20 bills, you simply type in the $40.00 and the cash register spits out the change: $2.60.

That’s not a skill. An adolescent can be taught that. This is the difference between skills and traits. Making change by plugging in the amount into a cash register and having the cash register spit out the amount to return to the customer is a trait. Traits are not transferable skills.

We hope you see how critical this analysis is, and how important it is to complete these reports and give them the time, dedication, and attention, they deserve. Don’t try to do this alone. Call the Social Security Law Group today.  800-909-7754