We have discussed the medical vocational guidelines and the various factors involved, i.e. residual functional capacity (RFC), age, etc., in several prior posts. We have not mentioned transferable skills and how it relates to the medical vocational guidelines. Even though you are disabled and you cannot do the same type of work you have done in the past, you may not qualify for SSDI or SSI benefits. While that makes no sense it is often a reality to many potential disability claimants.
The social security administration (SSA) requires some disability claimants, depending on their age, to demonstrate they have no transferable work skills. What this means is exactly what it says. If a claimant has work skills that are able to be transferred within the same residual functional capacity (RFC) that exist in significant numbers, they will not receive disability benefits for either SSDI or SSI.
Lets step back a minute and see how this works. The majority of claimants will go through the medical vocational guidelines (see prior posts). The medical vocational guidelines contain several factors which we have already discussed previously. Once the factors are compared to the individual facts of a particular claimant's case they will fall into one of the categories on the grid. This category will identify the maximum residual functional capacity (RFC) a disability claimant is able to perform. In other words, the maximum exertional limit this claimant is able to perform in some type of work. Once the RFC is established the decision maker will determine if a disability claimant has skills that are able to be transferred to another type of work within the same maximum exertional limits that exist in significant numbers in our economy. For example if your residual functional capacity (RFC) is light work, you must demonstrate to the administrative law judge (ALJ) that you do not have any work skills that are able to be transferred to another line of work that does not exceed light work. If you do have skills that transfer at or below your maximum exertional limits that are available in significant numbers, you will not receive benefits on your SSDI or SSI claim. This sounds harsh, but it is fair. If you have skills because of your work experience that are able to be transferred to another line of work, and you are capable of working, you should work. However your idea of "capable of working" and the social security administration's (SSA) idea of "capable of working" may not always be congruent. It will be your job to persuade the administrative law judge (ALJ) that your definition is more accurate than the vocational expert's definition. This can be a difficult job. Social security disability attorneys deal with this situation all the time. An experienced attorney will know the most effective way to present your case in a light most favorable to you.
Note, not all SSI and SSDI claimants have this hurdle to overcome. Age, education, and prior work experience will dictate the necessity for a transferable work skills analysis pursuant to the medical vocational guidelines. To find out if this applies to your case you should contact your local social security field office or contact an experienced social security disability lawyer.