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Breaking Down Vocational Expert Testimony: SVP

Vocational experts are present at every Social Security Disability hearing. Their job is to not only classify your past relevant work, but to also testify as to what jobs are available in the national economy.

What is SVP?

Often their testimony at the hearing may be difficult to understand due to the acronyms or other Social Security specific terms being used in their testimony. One acronym used in all vocational expert testimony is "SVP." SVP specifically stands for Specific Vocational Preparation. SVP essentially is the time it takes to develop the skills or capacity to perform a specific job. SVP considers the time it takes to learn the techniques, acquire the information, and develop the facility for the average performance in a job. SVP levels range from 1-9. The 10 SVP levels are broken down as follows:

SVP Level:

Time it takes to learn the work:


Short demonstration only.


Anything beyond short demonstration up and including 1 month.


Over 1 month up to and including 3 months.


Over 3 months up to and including 6 months.


Over 6 months up to and including 1 year.


Over 1 year up to and including 2 years.


Over 2 years up to and including 4 years.


Over 4 years up to and including 10 years.


Over 10 years.

These SVP levels are then further broken down into three different categories which correspond to the Social Security Administration's definitions of work - unskilled, semi-skilled, and skilled work.

Unskilled work includes SVP levels 1 and 2. Unskilled work is essentially work that requires little learning on the job, simple duties, and someone can learn the job in a short period of time.

Semi-skilled work includes SVP levels 3 and 4. Semi-skilled work does require some skills but does not require complex duties.

Skilled work includes levels 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. Skilled work encompasses jobs that require a high level of judgment, ability to adapt on the job, complex instructions, and problem solving.

Judges will not only ask vocational experts to classify your past work using SVP levels, but they may also be required to list other jobs available in the national economy based on a specific skill level. Therefore, it is important to work with a skilled disability attorney to better understand how your disabilities and SVP level may be important to your case based on your age, education, and past work.

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In Minnesota, we handle Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims. Throughout the nation, we handle SSDI applications and appeals for people from Ohio to Kansas, North Dakota to Texas and everywhere in between.


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