Before you qualify for Social Security disability benefits, the SSA must determine you are no longer capable of doing the work you previously did and that you cannot reasonably be expected to be re-trained into a new position.
The extent to which job retraining is reasonable will depend on several different factors, including age, education level and work history. Here, attorney Harold W. Conick explains how the industry-specific term ‘vocational adjustments’ fits into this picture.
Social Security Vocational Adjustment
In reference to Social Security disability claims, a vocational adjustment is a term used to describe the extent to which job retraining can be reasonably expected for a given applicant. As explained by the Social Security Administration (SSA), federal law states, “an applicant will only be found disabled or impaired if they are unable to engage in any type of substantial gainful work given their age, education, work experience, and skills.” In other words, the SSA deems some applicants retrainable and other applicants not-so retrainable. The less retrainable you are found to be, the more likely your disability claim is to be approved.
Vocational Adjustment Works in Favor of Older Workers and Against Young Workers
As an overriding principle, the SSA views younger workers as highly retrainable. On the other hand, it is generally considered unreasonable and unfair to ask workers to start an entirely new career right as they approach retirement age.
If you are younger than 40, the SSA will look closely to find any form of suitable alternative employment you can perform before awarding disability benefits. This is because you are “adjustable.” However, if you are 60 – the SSA will not consider a significant “vocational adjustment” to be appropriate.
The Importance of an Accurate Residual Functioning Capacity (RFC)
An applicant filing for SSDI or SSI benefits should ask their doctor to fill out a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form. An RFC is basically a form outlining your physical and mental limitations given your current impairment. In other words, an RFC will give the claims examiner a better understanding of what your doctor thinks you can and cannot do.
It is imperative your RFC form is accurate. The vocational specialist reviewing your claim will carefully consider your suitability to perform heavy, medium, light, or sedentary labor. The greater the extent to which your RFC indicates you can perform some types of work, the more likely the SSA will determine a vocational adjustment is appropriate. To be clear, your age, education and experience still matter.
Contact Our Chicago Metropolitan SSDI Attorney for Immediate Help
At Harold W. Conick & Associates Ltd., our Chicago Metropolitan Social Security disability lawyer is a skilled, aggressive advocate for clients. If you have questions about vocational adjustments and disability claims, we can help. For a free, completely confidential review of your SSDI or SSI claim, please contact us today. We handle Social Security disability claims throughout the Chicago Metropolitan area, including northern Illinois, Indiana, and southern Wisconsin.