December 10, 2009

Social Security Disability Claimants and Transferability of Skills

workers.JPGAs a Social Security disability claimant reaches the final step of the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) evaluation process, the SSA considers the claimant’s ability to perform other work which differs from past work. This is called transferability of skills. The SSA defines “transferable skills” as skills that can be used in other jobs when the skilled or semi-skilled work activities the claimant did in past work can be used to meet the requirements of skilled or semi-skilled work activities of other jobs or kinds of work. This greatly depends on the similarity of work activities among different jobs.
Indiana disability claimants may wonder how the SSA determines this transferability of skills. It is likely that the SSA will determine a transferability of skills if the jobs have:

  • The same (or less) degree of required skill,
  • The same (or similar) equipment, machines, or tools are being used, and
  • The same (or similar) material, process, products, services, etc. are involved.
  • The SSA may not always determine a transferability of skills even though the above factors are met. Therefore, the SSA has different degrees of transferability that they consider. These degrees of transferability range from very close similarities to remote and incidental similarities among jobs. So, even though the three requirements may be met, when skills have been acquired in such an isolated vocational setting that they are not readily usable in other industries, jobs, and work settings or are so specialized, the SSA may consider these skills as not transferable.
    If you are a claimant that is 55 years old or older and you have a severe impairment(s) that limits you to light work or sedentary work, the SSA may find that you cannot make an adjustment to other work unless you have skills that you can transfer to other skilled or semi-skilled work. On the other hand, the SSA may find that you have skills that are transferable to skilled or semi-skilled sedentary work only if the sedentary work is so similar to your previous work that you would need to make very little, if any, vocational adjustment in terms of tools, work processes, work settings, or the industry.
    At a hearing, the testimony of a vocational expert may be used regarding the acquired skills and the jobs to which they would transfer.
    Generally, it is to a claimant’s advantage to have past relevant work classified at the lowest skill level as possible. In other words, the higher the degree of skill, the more probable it is that the acquired skills can be transferred to other occupations. In addition, the older the claimant, the more difficult it is to find transferability. The lower the residual functional capacity, the more difficult it is to find transferability. Skills are not gained by doing unskilled jobs. A skill may give a person a special advantage over unskilled workers in the labor market. A person has no special advantage if he or she is skilled or semi-skilled but can qualify only for unskilled jobs because his or her skills cannot be used to any significant degree in other jobs.
    At the Law Office Scott D. Lewis, we understand that transferability of skills can be confusing to a claimant.  For more clarification concerning the above topic or to discuss your Social Security claim, contact Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney Scott D. Lewis for a free consultation at (317) 423-8888.

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