The application for Social Security disability benefits is long and complicated. It’s perfectly normal to feel stressed by all the paperwork.
To help you manage the process more easily, we talked with our team of top-tier lawyers and put all their best advice in one place. In this article, we’re going to take you through the Work History Report (Form SSA-3369). It’s one of the first forms you’ll fill out when you submit your disability application.
What is the Work History Report?
The Work History Report is a 10-page form that gives the Disability Determination Services (DDS) a comprehensive picture of the work activities you’ve been able to do in the past and what transferable skills you may have for other jobs. The form asks various questions about duties performed in your previous six jobs.
Note: The DDS is responsible for reviewing your Social Security Disability Insurance application to decide whether your disability qualifies you for benefits. After its review, your application goes back to the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Are you still working on your disability application? You may also like our complete guide to the disability application form (Form SSA-16).
6 tips for filling out the Work History Report
1. Don’t exaggerate or downplay your duties
Always answer questions truthfully, but avoid exaggerating or understating your job duties. The DDS and SSA will use the information you provide to determine what jobs you can do and whether your options are limited enough for you to qualify for benefits.
At the same time, it’s best not to downplay your work. If your job looks easier to manage than it actually was, the SSA may conclude you can still work that job — despite the limitations imposed by your disability.
Remember that if you’re under age 50, you can only qualify for Social Security disability benefits if your condition leaves you unable to perform any job. Disability eligibility rules are more lenient if you’re 50, but exaggerating what you’re capable of doing will only make things harder for you.
2. Be concise
Answer questions fully, but avoid giving extra information about your jobs or life. You don’t even need to write full sentences. Use bullet points to keep your answers short and sweet.
3. Give specific answers
As much as possible, avoid vague or general terms like “admin work.” You should assume that if you aren’t specific about your duties, the SSA will interpret the duties you list as the most demanding version of that task.
- “Regularly lifted 10-gallon jugs and mopped daily,” not “Basic janitorial work”
- “Entered my hours into a time sheet” not “scheduling and payroll”
- “Answered phone and scheduled appointments,” not “I handled reception and administration for the company’s executives”
4. Keep your answers consistent
One thing reviewers will look for is consistency across all your answers. For example, you could raise red flags if you say you lost the ability to stand for long periods of time, but then say that you stood for hours at a time during your next job.
It’s also very important to keep your answers consistent across the other forms in your application. Re-use exact text across the forms if it helps you stay consistent. Contradictory information can only hurt your application.
5. Use the Function Report as your guide
When you filled out question 20 of the Function Report, you explained your disability and how it affects you. If it helps you to stay consistent, refer back to that question and use it as your guide when answering work history questions.
6. Answer all questions
Don’t leave questions blank or unanswered. Otherwise a reviewer may mark your application as incomplete, delaying when you get benefits. (As it is, getting benefits takes more than two years, on average.)
If a question doesn’t apply to you, write "none," "does not apply,” or “N/A” instead of leaving it blank. If you don’t know the answer to a question, write "I don't know” or “unsure.”
The Social Security Work History Report, Step-By-Step
The Work History report is 10 pages long but many of the questions are repetitive. Let’s go through it section by section. We've included detailed advice and sample answers for completing your SSA-3369 form.
Section 1: Personal information
Start by providing basic identification and contact information, including your name, Social Security number, and a daytime telephone number where someone can call if they have questions for you.
Section 2: A list of your previous jobs
The section asks you to list all the jobs you had in the 15 years before your disability prevented you from being able to work. You need to write your job title, what type of business the company was, as well as your start and end dates for that job.
There is space for 10 jobs in this section but if you worked more than 10 jobs, you still need to include them. Use the “Remarks” page at the end of the form to list any jobs that didn’t fit.
Section 2: Details about your last six jobs
Next, the form walks you through your previous six jobs. Think of this as a mini-resume, except that you aren’t selling your skills here. Your goal is to be as realistic as possible.
Ideally, you want to show that the jobs were too demanding for your current abilities. But be careful not to overstate or exaggerate your past jobs. If you overstate what you did in past roles, the SSA could assume you have more transferable skills (and therefore, that you’re capable of doing more types of jobs even with your disability).
Some general information form will ask about:
- Tools and equipment you used
- Knowledge and skills required to do the job
- Physical demands like walking and lifting
- In what capacity you worked with others
Here are a three questions to pay special attention to:
Describe this job. What did you do all day?
You’ve probably heard that it’s best to describe how your disability affects you on your worst or average days, rather than your good days. Follow a similar principle here. Describe your duties at their most frequent and demanding, not as they were on the easier days at your jobs.
Include what you had to do in specific, physical terms. For example, don’t just say you did “filing” — say you lifted 20-pound boxes of paper regularly.
Also, don’t estimate or assume when describing your limitations. For example, if you had to lift gallon jugs in your role as a barista, don’t just guess and say you “lifted 10 pounds.” Do some quick research to check what they actually weighed.
Be sure to also mention any unusual but regular duties for a job. Maybe you worked in reception, but that also included doing regular cleaning and security work. If those responsibilities are beyond your abilities now, definitely mention them. It will help the SSA understand why these jobs are out of reach for you now.
The heaviest weight lifted, and the weight most frequently lifted
These questions are both checkboxes on the form. Here, you want to truly list the heaviest thing you had to lift, even if you didn’t have to do it often. By “frequently,” the SSA means weight you had to lift as part of your regular daily duties.
Did you supervise other people in this job?
Supervising and managing people is a highly transferable skill. If the SSA thinks you have management experience, they may deny your application and suggest that you look for that kind of work instead.
But it’s also very common for job titles to include the word “manager” or “supervisor,” when they didn’t actually supervise other people. So be very honest and specific when filling out this section.
Explicitly state whether or not you managed other people. If you aren’t clear enough, the SSA may assume you have the skills to do a number of non-physical management and supervisory jobs.
Section 3: Remarks
The final section of the form has a large “Remarks” area. Use this section if your answers to any of the previous questions were too long to fit in in the space provided.
If you’re filling out the Work History Report on behalf of someone else, there is space at the bottom of the form for your name, address, and the date.
Where to get help with your disability application
It’s possible to apply for disability benefits on your own but if you’re feeling overwhelmed or if you just want professional help, we recommend finding a disability lawyer.
Hiring a lawyer may sound unnecessary, but they are experts on the process and can greatly increase the chances of winning your claim. Applicants with lawyers are three times more likely to win their case. If your application is ever denied, it’s especially useful to work with a lawyer. They will help you appeal, collect evidence for you, and then represent you in court at the hearing.
Atticus can help you find an experienced disability lawyer. Our services are completely free and you wouldn’t have to pay any lawyer unless they win your case. Get started with our 2-minute disability quiz and one of our team members will contact you to talk about next steps.