In my experience, a claimant’s work history is the single most important non-medical factor that can help win a disability claim. Put yourself in the judge’s chair and consider the following two claimants:
- Tony is a 52 year old man with a high school education. From 1999-2005, Tony worked for a large agricultural company that produces pet food. Tony started as a forklift driver but he was quickly promoted to working foreman. In 2004, Tony began a part time job as a pizza delivery driver three nights a week. In 2005, Tony applied and was hired as a warehouse manager position with his company. There, he worked directly with management and several times was asked to speak at training sessions in different states. He regularly received glowing job reviews and performance based raises. In 2011, Tony was cleaning the gutters at his house and he fell off a ladder, severely injuring his back. He thereafter filed for Social Security disability. He is scheduled to appear before Judge Smith in 30 days.
- Ralph is a 52 year old man with a high school education. Since 1999, Ralph has worked at more than 20 jobs – he doesn’t remember many of his employers or the dates he worked. Some of the jobs included cashier at a convenience store, demolition clean-up for an apartment renovator, janitorial work at a school, and forklift driver at a warehouse. When asked why he has had so many jobs, Ralph acknowledges that he was fired from several of his jobs for drinking and that his attendance was never great. Ralph also has a bit of a temper and he lost his warehouse job when he perceived that the supervisor was picking on him and he got into a verbal confrontation. Ralph has been incarcerated for both DUI and domestic violence. He has been going to AA meetings and has been sober for the past 3 years. In 2011, Ralph was cleaning the gutters at his mother’s house and he fell off a ladder, severely injuring his back. He thereafter filed for Social Security disability. He is scheduled to appear before Judge Smith in 30 days.
If you were “Judge Smith” and you had to consider Ralph’s case and Tony’s case back to back, who would you find more believable? Obviously, Tony’s work history suggests that he is hardworking, reliable and someone who would not be likely to give up a career to collect $1,500 per month from Social Security. You would not be as likely to feel that way about Ralph.
Obviously not everyone has a work history as good as Tony’s or as bad as Ralph’s. As your attorney’s however, we can present you in the best light by:
- providing the judge with a detailed work history that includes the names of your employers, the dates you worked there, a detailed job description and the reason you left.
- identifying any positive patterns in your work history – even if you have worked for multiple employers, perhaps we can show that you sought more difficult jobs as time went by
- if you previously had an issue with substance abuse or anger management, we can show that you addressed the problem and improved yourself as time went by
- if there were jobs in your past that you did well, we can try to track down former co-workers or supervisors to give us an affidavit about your positive performance
- if your job history is spotty, perhaps there are other areas of your life that demonstrate your reliability and consistency. Were you responsible for the care of a chronically ill child, sibling or parent? Did you volunteer anywhere?
I have learned over the years that we sometimes have to dig beyond the obvious to find evidence that will show our clients as believable and credible. Your work history is the first place I start and often it can make a significant difference in your favor.