The Social Security Administration’s Huge Change to Past Relevant Work

close up of wooden gavel

Recently, the Social Security Administration (SSA) published its final rule in the Federal Register, reflecting a massive change in the definition of past relevant work (PRW). Effective June 22nd, 2024, the definition of PRW will be reduced from fifteen years to just five years. Additionally, work that started and stopped in less than 30 calendar days will no longer be considered PRW.

An applicant’s PRW is one part of the puzzle used by SSA to decide if an applicant is disability eligible. Our firm, as well as organizations such as NOSSCR, has been vocal about outdated evaluation tools and practices related to determining disability eligibility (including the Dictionary of Occupational Titles). We are reassured by SSA’s recent steps in a modern direction.

A Resounding Win for Disabled Americans

In their publication, SSA reflected that this decision will “better account for the diminishing relevance of work skills over time and reduce the burden on individuals applying for disability.” In other words, disabled Americans seeking Social Security Disability benefits will no longer be found capable of work skills they may not have utilized in over a decade.

This decision is an enormous win for those in need of disability benefits and for us at Schaffer & Associates, who, as representatives, are committed to helping clients receive fair decisions. Additionally, SSA’s staff will benefit from a reduced burden and effort of gathering and analyzing fifteen years’ worth of work history details for each applicant.

In a concerted effort to speed up the application and appeals process, SSA intends to hire 400 additional disability examiners across the country and improve their technology. They have set a goal to fully process initial disability claims within 7 months (or 215 days) by the end of fiscal year 2025.

This decision marks one of many made by SSA recently. A slew of press releases over the last few months perhaps mark the beginning of a new era for Social Security. We are hopeful that these changes may result in shorter application and appeal processing times for everyone.

Widespread Agency Change

May 9th, 2024 – Expand the definition of a public assistance household in order to allow more SSI application approvals, increase payment amounts for some SSI recipients, and reduce reporting burdens for those living in public assistance households. Effective September 30, 2024.

April 17, 2024 – Expand the SSI rental subsidy policy Nationwide in an effort to allow more SSI application approvals and increase payment amounts for some SSI recipients. Effective September 30, 2024.

March 29, 2024 – Decrease the default overpayment withholding rate for Social Security recipients from 100% to just 10% (or $10, whichever is greater) in an attempt to reduce financial hardship on those with overpayments. Effective March 25, 2024.

Additionally, SSA has taken steps to improve its customer service, especially related to calls made to its National 800 Number. Since implementing an online performance tracker for agency representatives (SecurityStat), the SSA has successfully reduced the average waiting time from 40.8 minutes to 24.5 minutes. For more information and additional press releases, visit

If you need help filing an initial application for SSDI or appealing a denial, contact our office today for a free consultation. Whether it’s Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income, we have helped countless clients secure the benefits they’re entitled to.