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When Are Skills Important?

The question of whether a Social Security disability claimant has transferable skills is important in a small number of cases involving older claimants.

These cases involve claimants who are:

  • over 50;
  • unable to perform past relevant work; and
  • limited to sedentary work

or claimants who are:

  • over 55;
  • unable to perform past relevant work; and
  • limited to light work.

For such claimants, the determination of whether they are disabled will be based on whether they have acquired transferrable skills in past semiskilled or skilled work.

Though a claimant may be denied benefits because of skills he has acquired at a past job, not every skill will necessarily disqualify a claimant. For example, some skills are not useful outside of a narrow range of work. If the claimant is not able to return to work in this field, the skills he has acquired will not provide a significant advantage in finding work and he may be found disabled.

For the Social Security Administration to disqualify a claimant based on his skills, they will need to find that these skills are transferable to a significant range of other skilled or semiskilled work.

The concept of “skills” is actually part of a bigger issue the SSA will consider: vocational adjustment. If you are older than 50 and have skills that are transferable to a wide range of jobs, you may still qualify for benefits if you are unable to adjust to new work for other reasons, such as inability to communicate in English.

For more about the transferability of skills, continue to Is a Skill Transferable?