Social Security Disability Applicants Must Prove They Cannot Do Past Relevant Work to QUALIFY FOR SOCIAL SECURITY at step 4 in the 5 step sequential evaluation process.
Past relevant work is an important consideration in Social Security Disability claims. Judges often overlook the fact that some claimants performed duties of several jobs when performing a past single job. Jobs which require performance and duties of several jobs are called “composite jobs,” and are not past relevant work.
Where work is found to be a “composite job”, it may not be past relevant work as generally performed because it has no single equivalent in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT). Similarly, one cannot treat each task or duty of “hybrid or composite job” as a separate past relevant job because that is not the way claimants actually performed their job. Therefore, it will be easier to QUALIFY FOR SOCIAL SECURITY whenpast work includes composite work.
If a job is composite, and each task involves different difficulty of performance, returning to the past relevant job may be problematic because each task implicates different mental and physical demands.
These are examples of composite jobs and federal jurisprudence dealing with them for Social Security Disability Cases.
In Bechtold v. Massanri, 152 F. Supp. 2d 1340, 1344 (M.D. Fla. 2001), the claimant performed duties as a clerk and a telephone clerk that are part of a composite job and should be considered as inseparable of past relevant work. Therefore, it would be erroneous to order a claimant to return to one duty and disregard another based on the idea that the claimant can perform some part of the job but not all of the job demands.
Some composite jobs also involve multiple responsibilities and different tasks. Each may have different levels of exertion. The least demanding function of the claimant’s past occupations, for example, is not a past relevant job and is contrary to the Social Security Act. Agricultural laborer may involve vegetable sorting task, but it is not limited to the sorting tasks only. It would be erroneous to apply residual functional capacity to a specific task as a whole and disregard the others. Valencia v. Heckler, 751 F.2d 1082, 1086 (9th Cir. 1985).
Furthermore, where a worker holds a double title such as construction supervisor or job supervisor, it is likely that the work that the claimant does can be treated as a composite job. Construction supervisor, for example, can supervise 20% of the time and does construction work for the rest of the time. Judges, however, cannot separate those different duties in two separate jobs. Carmicle v. Comm’r, Soc. Sec. Admin., 533 F.3d 1155, 1166.
Where a job consists of different tasks of different exertion, and both are intertwined, each task cannot be identified as past relevant work for Social Security Disability purposes. For example, cashier job involves light-exertion work. Separating the two tasks one from another could be in conflict within the meaning of the Social Security Statutory Regulation, 20 C.F.R. §404.1520(e). Rogers v. Schweiker, 558 F. Supp. 1358, 1360 (N.D. Ala. 1983).
Occupational environment is also an important factor in determining whether the job can be treated as a composite job. Cook/cashier position at a barbecue restaurant, for example, is a composite job because the “cook” portion is a medium level task of the job. The “Cashier” portion is a complementary task of the job. Thus, it could be inappropriate to separate tasks and consider each as past relevant work for Social Security Disability purposes. Armstrong v. Sullivan, 814 F. Supp. 1364, 1372 (W.D. Tex. 1993).
Interestingly, there are certain guidelines for a Social Security Administration agency to follow when determining whether a job can be classified as a composite job. The Office of Policy Consultation has guidelines that could help identify composite jobs:
v Do not encompass all the tasks of any one occupation
v Is a blend of tasks from several different occupations
v All DOT occupations are “composites of data collected from diverse sources”
v Extra duties that are not main duties will necessarily rule out a match
v Be sure you have a complete and accurate description of past work
v Check a number of occupations and alternate titles before deciding you have a composite job
v Carefully explain your job
v Carefully explain your judgment
Proving that the job is “hybrid or composite” may be one step to QUALIFYING FOR SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY. Thus, it is important to make sure that Judges do not bifurcate past relevant work when determining QUALIFICATIONS FOR SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY.