Descriptions of Past Work

When describing your past work, be very careful. Your descriptions should be simple, not complicated.

  • If your past work was very skilled or required technical knowledge, it may be that you can transfer skills to other jobs that you may be found capable of doing.
  • If your past work included supervising other people, it may be found that you can supervise people in other types of jobs in which you have no experience.
  • If you supervised other workers, you probably should not list supervision as part of your past work if it was done less than one third of the time.
  • If you used machines, tools, or equipment on your past jobs, these past jobs may be found to be skilled and therefore, you may be found to have transferable skills to other jobs that you have never performed before.
  • If you wrote reports, you may have transferable skills to other jobs. If you wrote reports less than 1/3 of a work day, you may not want to say you did this kind of work.
  • When describing the weight you lifted on your past jobs, think about the heaviest item you lifted since it must be shown that you now lack the ability to do the lifting on your past job. So if you lifted heavy items, identify those items on the forms.
  • If you did not receive training for the jobs you performed in the past, say you did not have training on the forms you send to Social Security. Jobs that did not require training may be “unskilled” jobs and you would never be able to transfer skills to other jobs if your past work was “unskilled”


You may be asked to give Social Security a list of names of people to contact about your disability. You should explain to these friends, relatives, or spouse that the purpose of any forms sent to them on your case is to determine if you meet the disability criteria. These people should ask you first what your disability is before they fill out and mail forms to Social Security. These people should not answer questions over the phone unless they have talked to you first.


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