How Your Job Skill Level May Affect Your Eligibility For Social Security Disability

skills required documentMany factors are considered when determining your eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits. However, you could divide things into two main categories: your medical issues and your employment history.

One of the most important considerations for your employment history is the skills you have acquired. Do the skills you have still allow you to do some type of work? While you might not be able to go back to your old job, your skills may allow you to work in another industry. If your skills still allow you to work, and your medical issues do not prevent you from using those skills, claims examiners are unlikely to award benefits.

Below, Sigman Janssen’s experienced Green Bay Social Security Disability lawyers discuss how the Social Security Administration (SSA) evaluates an applicant’s job skills and whether those skills are transferrable.

If you need help applying for benefits or have already been denied, contact us to schedule a free consultation. We have decades of experience helping people obtain benefits.

Call today to learn more: (877) 888-5201

How Does the Social Security Administration Define a Job Skill?

Social Security regulations say workers have a skill when they know how to do something that requires them to use their judgment. A skill goes beyond simply carrying out duties assigned by a supervisor. Skills are acquired by doing a job that is above the unskilled level. When you possess a skill, you have practical, familiar knowledge of an art, science or trade and can properly apply that knowledge.

Skills give workers a unique advantage over unskilled workers in finding and sustaining employment.

These are some common examples of skills, based on the Social Security definition:

  • Using complex machinery or tools
  • Training other workers
  • Supervising other workers
  • Typing on a computer
  • Using tools to make precise measurements
  • Reading blueprints
  • Filing documents
  • Doing an inventory

Our experienced attorneys can review your situation in a free consultation to determine if you possess job skills that would prevent you from obtaining benefits.

How Does Social Security Classify Job Skill Level?

When claims examiners review your employment history, they will put each of your jobs into one of three categories: unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled:

Unskilled Work

These are jobs that often do not require you to use your judgment. Many of these jobs involve manual labor. People can learn how to do these jobs in a relatively short amount of time. Generally, unskilled jobs do not provide workers with skills that can be transferred to another industry. Some examples of unskilled work include taking orders in a fast-food restaurant or doing clerical work in an office.

Semi-skilled Work

While these jobs require workers to pay more attention to detail, you do not need an extensive amount of training or education. That said, these jobs sometimes need you to have coordination and dexterity to complete tasks.

People can learn how to do most semi-skilled work within three to six months. For example, you can learn to be a retail sales associate or nursing assistant in a matter of a few months.

While these types of jobs require some amount of attention to detail and taking steps to protect against hazardous conditions, there are also repetitive tasks with these jobs.

Skilled Work

One of the central aspects of skilled work is exercising judgment in helping an employer provide a service or create a product. Skilled work often requires you to employ abstract and critical thinking skills to make decisions or evaluate facts and figures. Many skilled jobs require you to have certain degrees, certifications or licenses – it typically takes six months to a year or more to learn how to do skilled work. Common examples of skilled workers include engineers or teachers.

Why Skilled Workers May Have More Trouble Obtaining Benefits

Skilled workers often have a much harder time obtaining disability benefits compared to unskilled workers. This is because skilled workers are much more likely to have at least a few skills they could use to do another job. Even if you have a physical disability, you may still be able to sit at a desk and use a computer to do a variety of tasks.

However, every case is unique. Even if you have used a variety of skills throughout your career, your disability may prevent you from using those skills in the future. For example, you may have a cognitive issue that affects your ability to engage in critical thinking. You may have a physical disability that prevents you from operating machines or tools that would allow you to do some other type of job.

If you have a medical issue that prevents you from working, call Sigman Janssen to find out how we may be able to assist you in obtaining benefits. Whether you have just started an application or are looking to appeal a denial, we may be able to help, and there are no upfront costs.

How Do Claims Examiners Determine How Long it Takes To Learn a Job?

Claims examiners assign a specific vocational preparation (SVP) rating. The Department of Labor establishes these ratings. The higher the number, the more training a job requires.

These are the nine SVP levels:

  • SVP 1 – Employees only need a short demonstration
  • SVP 2 – You need anywhere from a couple of weeks to one month of training
  • SVP 3 – Some of these jobs need employees to receive three months of training
  • SVP 4 – These are jobs that need three to six months of training
  • SVP 5 –­ These jobs require between six months and one year of training
  • SVP 6 – At this level, jobs require workers to receive between one and two years of training
  • SVP 7 – This job requires between two and four years of training
  • SVP 8 – People seeking work at this level require between four and 10 years of training
  • SVP 9 – Jobs at this level require 10 years or more of training

Levels one and two are unskilled, levels three and four are semi-skilled and levels five to 10 are skilled positions.

How Does Social Security Evaluate Transferability of Skills?

A transferable skill is one that you used in a prior skilled or semi-skilled job that can be applied to a future job. Unskilled work does not provide transferrable skills.

When an unskilled worker files a Social Security Disability application, examiners do not need to consider the transferability of skills. When a semi-skilled or skilled worker applies to a job, the worker likely has some transferable skills.

The exception would be if the applicant’s disability prevents him or her from continuing to use those skills. For example, cognitive decline may prevent an older worker from operating heavy machinery or evaluating facts and figures.

Jobs That Often Have Transferable Skills

These are some jobs that typically have transferrable skills:

  • Automotive mechanic
  • Carpenter
  • Law enforcement worker
  • Operator or heavy equipment
  • Electrician
  • Maintenance technician
  • Plumber
  • And more

When a claims examiner or administrative law judge finds you have transferrable skills, these findings typically need to be based on testimony from a vocational expert. Applicants need an experienced attorney who knows how to cross-examine the expert. Sometimes these experts list coordination or attention to detail as skills, even though they are not.

There are also situations when skills simply are not transferrable, such as skills used in fishing or logging. An experienced attorney will know how to point this out to support your application for benefits.

Contact Sigman Janssen To Discuss Your Disability Application

Navigating the complex process of applying for disability benefits can be challenging, but you do not have to do it alone. Sigman Janssen’s attorneys bring decades of experience and a proven track record in helping applicants secure the benefits they need. Our deep understanding of the Social Security Administration’s procedures and requirements positions us to effectively guide you through each step.

We invite you to take advantage of our free initial legal consultation. During this session, our knowledgeable lawyers will discuss your situation and how we can assist you. Remember, at Sigman Janssen, there are no upfront costs for our services – we only charge fees if we are successful in obtaining disability benefits for you.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help: (877) 888-5201.