Fighting For
Employee And Union Rights
Fighting For
Employee And Union Rights

What are the medical-vocational guidelines?

On Behalf of | May 11, 2023 | Social Security Disability

When determining a person’s disability status, the Social Security Administration (SSA) takes three important factors into account: age, education and work experience. These elements inform their decisions when assessing the person’s ability to perform similar or less demanding work. 

The SSA then uses medical-vocational guidelines to decide whether a person is disabled for the purposes of awarding disability benefits.

How do these factors influence decisions?

When deciding whether a person can perform similar or less demanding jobs in light of a serious health condition, the SSA recognizes that certain factors make it unrealistic or impossible for someone to secure gainful employment.

  • Advanced age: Workers 50 and older may have a lower chance of being retrained or adapting to new workplaces. The older a person is, the more their age can affect the SSA’s determination of disability.
  • Lack of a work history with substantial gainful activity or transferable skills: The SSA can find a person disabled if their work history consists mainly of unskilled roles or jobs with skills that are so specific they do not transfer to other occupations. 
  • Less education: Workers who have at least graduated high school generally have an easier time securing skilled employment than those with little or no formal education.

Based on this information and the person’s residual functional capacity (RFC), the SSA will decide whether they are disabled using their grids or guidelines.

Examples to consider

To see how this might work, let’s consider a few examples:

  • A 55-year-old man with a high school diploma and a work history with non-transferable skills can be disabled, while a 35-year-old man with the same education and work history may not be disabled.
  • A 62-year-old woman with limited education may not be disabled if the SSA determines she has transferable skills. If her skills are not transferable, they can decide she is disabled.

These examples show how age, education and previous work experience can affect disability determinations.

Applying for SSDI can take more time and effort than people would like, especially when they are also tackling physical, mental and financial issues related to a serious health condition. However, this information, along with the help of an experienced attorney, can help people pursue the benefits they deserve.