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Can My Job Skill Level Impact Ability to Obtain Social Security Disability?

June 21, 2021

job skill level of disability claimant

The Social Security Administration (SSA) will consider multiple factors when evaluating your claim for Social Security Disability benefits. One factor in determining if there is less demanding work you may be able to perform. The SSA will look at the skill level required by your past job in order to see if there are other similarly skilled jobs that you could do despite your physical or mental limitations.

Below, our legal team discusses how the SSA defines skilled and unskilled work and why it matters to a claimant. Dayes Law Firm is ready to help you file a disability claim or appeal a denied one. We know what it takes to receive approval or overturn a decision to get you the disability benefits you need. Call today to schedule a free initial consultation. We charge no upfront fees for our services.

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Importance of Skills Learned in Past Jobs

SSA examiners use a set of tables – referred to as the grid rules – to decide if a claimant is disabled enough to receive benefits based on his or her age, education and skills. If you have skills from your past jobs that can transfer to another job, you will not be able to qualify for disability using the grid rules.

A claimant’s skill level is an important factor when assessing disability claims. Your condition must be severe enough that it prevents you from using skills you learned in another job. For instance, a claimant who suffers from a neurological disorder may not remember the skills he or she learned from a past job.  

Many claimants may assume they have no job skills or that their past jobs are unskilled. It can come as a surprise when they are denied disability benefits because the SSA classifies their past job as semi-skilled.

This classification is relevant because it can directly affect your eligibility for benefits. That is why it is important that you accurately describe your past work when applying for disability.

How Skill Levels Are Defined by the SSA

The SSA classifies past work experiences into three skill levels: unskilled, skilled and semi-skilled. Each skill level is based on the length it takes to learn the job and the characteristics of that particular job.  

Performing Unskilled Work

Unskilled work does not require any judgment to carry out simple tasks. The job can be learned within a month or less. Unskilled work often involves physical strength, manual labor or coordination. This type of work will not assist someone to acquire skills that can be transferred to another line of work.

Performing Semi-Skilled Work

Semi-skilled work does require some skills but does not involve complex job duties. The job can be learned within three to six months. Semi-skilled work often involves being able to stay alert, pay attention to detail and protect against risks. Semi-skilled work may also include doing repetitive tasks.

Performing Skilled Work

Skilled work requires certain qualifications. It generally takes six months to a year or more to train for and learn a skilled job. The work involves exercising judgment and understanding how to do certain tasks to make a product or offer a service. Skilled work may even include making calculations and working closely with facts and figures. It is not uncommon for this work to require critical thinking skills.

Higher skilled workers may have difficulty being eligible for disability because there may be less skilled work they can do despite their condition. If you can be trained for and obtain other work, you will likely be denied benefits. If you are unable to perform other work because of your condition, you are more likely to get a disability claim approved by the SSA.

Specific Vocational Preparation (SVP) Rating

How does the SSA establish the skill level of past jobs?

They use a Specific Vocational Preparation (SVP) rating. An SVP rating is used as a guideline for determining how long it would take a claimant to learn a job. The SSA examiner reviewing your claim will give you an SVP rating that has been pre-established for each job type by the Department of Labor.

There are nine SVP ratings. The more training the job requires, the higher your SVP rating will be. The higher this rating is, the less likely you will qualify for disability.  

For example:  

  • If the job requires a month or less of training, the SSA will give you an SVP rating of one or two, which is considered unskilled work.
  • If the job requires three to six months of training, the SSA will give you an SVP rating of three or four, which is considered semi-skilled work.
  • If the job requires at least six months of training, the SSA will give you an SVP rating of greater than four, which is considered skilled work.

See How Our Firm May Be Able to Help

A Phoenix-based Social Security Disability lawyer at our firm is here to review your claim and help determine your eligibility for disability benefits. If your disability claim has been denied, you have the right to appeal the decision. We are ready to guide you through any stage of the claims process.

Our consultations are 100 percent free and confidential. You are not obligated after this initial meeting to hire our firm, but if you do, there are no upfront fees. We only get paid if we help you obtain benefits.

Talk to a lawyer today. Ph: 1-800-503-2000

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