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What is Medical Vocational Allowance?

Definition of Medical Vocational Allowance

The Disability Determination Services office is the agency responsible for evaluating a claimant's disability application (the name may vary in certain states). First the DDS will determine if a claimant's condition is listed on their SSA Listing of Impairments or the impairment listing, titled "Disability Evaluation Under Social Security." Claimants with a condition which automatically meets a listing can be immediately approved for benefits. Claimants whose conditions do not "meet a listing" may still win benefits through a medical vocational allowance.

A claimant may be approved through a medical vocational allowance if the DDS determines that the claimant has severe functional limitations which leave them with too little residual functional capacity to work their former jobs (past work), their current job or retrain for new work (other work).

In the medical vocational allowance process the DDS uses what they term GRID rules or a series of charts which identify the level of work a claimant can perform: sedentary, light, and medium. Through this process the SSA will evaluate the exertional and non-exertional limits of the claimant combined with the claimant's age, education and past work experience to see if they have the residual functional capacity to work. If the SSA decides the claimant cannot work at a substantial level they will be approved for SSDI or SSI.


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