Past Work Experience For Social Security In Florida

When the Social Security Administration (SSA) makes a determination of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) eligibility, it evaluates an individual claim using a 5-step process. One of the steps (specifically, the fourth step) in the process asks whether the individual can perform any of their past relevant work. When looking at an individual’s previous work experience, and making a determination as to whether it applies or is relevant, the SSA considers:

  1. Recency – whether the individual performed the work within the last 15 years
  2. Duration – whether the work lasted long enough for the individual to learn to do it
  3. Substantial Gainful Activity – whether the work was paid to the degree that it created “substantial gainful activity”

Image Source (CC BY 2.0) by rt48state ff via flickr
Image Source (CC BY 2.0) by rt48state ff via flickr

When looking at each of these, the following guidance comes into play:


In considering an individual’s past work experience, the work being considered must be recent enough to be relevant. This is meant to recognize the fact that, in many of today’s industries, a gradual change in skills happens in most jobs after a decade or more. To determine if an individual’s prior experience is recent, the SSA typically considers only that work which the individual performed within the past 15 years. Skills, proficiencies, and abilities acquired in a particular job from more than 15 years ago are not expected to be applicable or relevant in the current labor market. The exception to this guideline, however, is in the case of work performed more than 15 years where the continuity of skills, knowledge, and processes learned outside of the 15-year window connect to more recent experience.


This refers to the length of time that an individual worked in a position and gained job experience. The length of time in a position needs to be long enough for the individual to have come to understand the requirements of the job, learned the skills and techniques needed to perform the job, and to develop the talents needed by a typical worker to give an average performance in the job situation. The length of time it takes an individual to gain this level of functioning at a particular job depends on the nature and complexity of the job itself, but it typically means the individual worked at least 3 months in the position.

Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)

Benefits eligibility under SSD requires that an individual show that he or she is unable to engage in “substantial gainful activity.” According to the SSA, a person who earns more than a certain monthly amount (excluding impairment-related work experiences) generally is considered to be able to perform SGA. The particular amount of monthly earnings that qualifies as SGA depends on the nature of a person’s disability. The Social Security Act outlines that blind individuals can earn a higher SGA than non-blind individuals. Both SGA amounts are tied to the national average wage index, which for 2015 is $1,820 per month for individuals who qualify as statutorily blind and $1,090 per month for non-blind individuals.

SSDI Help In Dade, Broward, And Monroe Counties

Because of the complicated rules involved in applying for SSDI, many applicants are confused and unsure what information is necessary to complete an application benefits. Other individuals are unsure what to do if their applications are denied but they believe they qualify for benefits. Having an experienced Florida social security disability attorney in your corner can level the playing field and help you to present your case in a way that significantly improves your chances for receiving the benefits you deserve.

At Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti, P.A., we help our clients to gather adequate documentation about their past work, including factual information about those work demands that have a bearing on the individual’s medically established limitations. We also help gather detailed information about the strength, endurance, manipulative ability, mental demands, and other job requirements involved in an individual’s past jobs, in order to support the individual’s current level of fitness for work, if at all. If you have questions about your eligibility for SSDI benefits, please call our office today at (305) 653-5555 or use our online contact form to have one of our skilled Dade, Broward, or Monroe County disability attorneys contact you.