What Is Past Relevant Work?

Understanding Past Relevant Work (PRW)

Your Past Relevant Work (PRW) is defined by SSA as work that you have done within the past 15 years, that was substantial gainful activity (SGA), and that lasted long enough for you to learn to do it. It is considered in the fourth step of determining disability in the Five-Step Sequential Process. This blog will delve a little deeper into what exactly is considered PRW by SSA.

When you apply for disability, SSA is very interested in your PRW and what you did all day.

Evaluating PRW in Disability Applications

For example, Joe has been an auto mechanic for most of his working life and now suffers from disc herniations in his back. He was a mechanic for over 20 years and he earned over SGA each month that he worked.

If you do have a job that lasted 15 years or more like Joe does, SSA will also want to know how much you crouched, crawled, stooped, handled large or small objects, how much you lifted, how often, whether you supervised others, etc. at this job.

In our example, Joe would answer that he crouched 4 out of 8 hours in an average work day, crawled one hour per day, stooped 6 out of 8 hours per day, handled small objects 7 out of 8 hours per day and lifted 50 pounds or more on a frequent basis. He did not supervise others. SSA would then consider this information in conjunction with Joe’s disabling conditions, which in his case is back pain.

Assessing Ability to Return to Work

SSA will then ask Joe questions about how he did his job and will also consider how the job is typically done in the national economy. If Joe is unable to perform the job the way he used to, but SSA determines that he is capable of doing the work the way it is typically performed in the national economy, Joe’s claim for disability will be turned down.

However, if SSA determines Joe cannot go back to his PRW as an auto mechanic because he cannot perform those same job duties in his current state of health, SSA then looks to see if there are other jobs Joe can do. They will look at what job skills he possesses to see whether he can adjust to other work. This is the fifth step of the Sequential Evaluation Process.

SSA may argue that Joe has skills that can be transferred to sedentary work (a sit-down job), that does not involve standing all day or lifting anything heavier than a stapler. In this scenario, Joe's claim for disability benefits will be denied on the grounds that he can go work an office job.

This is yet another reason why getting an experienced disability attorney involved is a good idea. While SSA may say Joe can go to work as an office worker, Joe’s attorney knows how to prove this is not feasible. Joe's attorney will get the imaging studies of Joe’s back from the hospital and get additional statements from his doctor regarding the inability to sit 6 hours or more.

Navigating the Five-Step Sequential Evaluation Process

The Five-Step Sequential Evaluation Process can become very technical in a disability claim. Please contact our office for more information as far as how we can help you in this regard! You may also read more about the Five-Step Sequential Process here!

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