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Vocational Factor Analysis – Age, Education, And Prior Work

Vocational Factor analysis is used by Social Security when analyzing a Claimant’s ability to return to their Past Relevant Work or other work.  Three vocational factors that the administration analyzes are a Claimant’s age, their education, and their previous work experience (see SSR 83-10).  These factors are combined together in the Vocational Grids, which the SSA uses in directing findings in cases where a listing level impairment is not present.

Vocational Factor – Age

Aging when combined with a severe impairment represents a significant hindrance to employment.  This problem typically does not improve as age advances, and as such, Social Security views age as a significant vocational factor.  Though age milestones such as 50, 55, and 60 represent ages where vocational factors change (as reflected by the categories in the grid rules), it is important to note that these age bands are not applied in a mechanical way.  This flexibility allows Social Security to evaluate disability under criteria that may not yet be reached.  Typically, a six month window may be employed to allow age bands to be utilized earlier than prescribed, though no mechanical rules apply.

Vocational Factor – Education

Generally speaking, the more education that a person has, the better equipped they are to be  perform work at a variety of skill levels.  However, Social Security recognizes that a person’s level of reasoning, communication, and arithmetical ability may not be the same as their level of formal education due to a body of skills acquired through work, or a loss of intellectual acumen as a result of a medical event (as revealed by testing).  As such, education possessed by a Claimant may be may be viewed differently not solely on the basis of his or her statements, but based upon all evidence pertinent to evaluating that person’s educational capacities.  POMS rule DI 25015.010 (D)(4) states that “in some cases, the numerical grade level of formal schooling completed may not be representative of an individual’s present educational achievements, which could be higher or lower.”  The rule further explains that “special education records or educational testing records in the case record could clearly demonstrate a lower level of educational benefit than indicated by numerical grade level.”

Many claimants without a full high school education can benefit from these rules, as they were designed by Social Security to make it easier for less educated claimants to be found disabled.  Here, the rules were created knowing that those with less educational opportunities should have a harder time returning to work.  Therefore claimants (especially those above age 50), who technically graduated high school but in actuality were only “passed along” , should definitely submit their high school report cards and any other evidence and testing, however old it may be, to Social Security.

Vocational Factor – Previous Work Experience

According so the Social Security Administration, a person’s work experience may be classified as “no experience”, ” not vocationally relevant experience”, unskilled, semiskilled, or skilled. The nature of a Claimant’s past work may be used to inform an adjudicator how likely he person would be to engage in other work requiring a similar or slightly less rigorous skill level.  Transferability of skills is an extremely important component when the past relevant work is skilled.  To determine that skills are transferable, the court must have found that a person must have performed work which is above the unskilled level of complexity, must have identifiable skills, and must be able to use these skills in specific skilled or semiskilled occupations within his or her residual functional capacity.

Filing for disability can be a complex undertaking.  The Marietta, Georgia Disability Attorneys of O’Brien & Feiler would be pleased to consult with you for free about your case.  As always, we recommend seeking local expert counsel when seeking Social Security Disability.