Social Security: Agency to Reduce Work History Period to Five Years

When people become disabled under the statutory definition the Social Security Administration must follow, the agency helps them meet their basic needs and sustain a higher quality of life.  Social Security administers disability benefits through two programs: the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. Under both programs, the agency follows a five-step process to determine if an adult has a qualifying disability.

In response to President Biden’s Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government, the agency is proud to announce changes that will reduce administrative burdens for applicants and help more people with disabilities receive government benefits and services if they are eligible.  On April 18, 2024, Social Security published a final rule, “Intermediate Improvement to the Disability Adjudication Process: Including How We Consider Past Work.”

The final rule announces updates that will improve the application process for disability benefits and reduce the time applicants wait for a decision.  The new rule simplifies step four of the process, which assesses whether a person applying for disability benefits can perform any of their “past relevant work.”

“This new rule will lessen the burden and time our applicants face when filling out information about their work history and will make it easier for them to focus on the most current and relevant details about their past work,” said Martin O’Malley, Commissioner of Social Security.  “It also improves the quality of the information our frontline workers receive to make decisions, improving customer service, and reducing case processing time and overall wait times.”

Under the final rule, beginning June 22, 2024, when determining past relevant work, the agency will review only five years of past work.  The previous policy required people to provide detailed information about 15 years of work history, which was difficult for individuals to remember and often led to incomplete or inaccurate reporting.  Also, the agency will no longer consider past work that started and stopped in fewer than 30 calendar days.  The new rule makes it easier for people applying for benefits by focusing on their most recent relevant work activity while still providing enough information to continue making accurate determinations.  

This final rule is one of several regulation updates Social Security is publishing to improve its disability program.  The agency recently announced it will reduce barriers to access the SSI program by updating the definition of a public assistance household (See Social Security to Expand Access to SSI Program by Updating Definition of a Public Assistance Household).  The agency also announced it will exclude the value of food from SSI benefit calculations (See Social Security to Remove Barriers to Accessing SSI Payments).  Additionally, the agency announced it will expand its rental subsidy exception, currently only in place for SSI applicants and recipients residing in seven States, as a nationwide policy (See Social Security to Expand SSI Rental Subsidy Policy).

The agency continuously examines programmatic policy and makes regulatory and sub-regulatory changes as appropriate.  For more information on the SSDI and SSI programs – including who is eligible, how to apply, and how Social Security makes a disability determination – visit Disability | SSA and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) | SSA.

To read the final rule, “Intermediate Improvement to the Disability Adjudication Process: Including How We Consider Past Work,” visit Federal Register :: Intermediate Improvement to the Disability Adjudication Process, Including How We Consider Past Work.

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