An individual is eligible for Social Security Disability benefits when they are found “disabled” according to the definition of the Social Security regulations. Generally, a five-step sequential evaluation process is used to determine whether an individual is disabled pursuant to the guidelines. However, there are three very specific medical-vocational exceptions which allows an individual to avoid the five-step evaluation. Social Security Program Operations Manual System (POMS) specifically explains that these three special medical-vocational profiles essentially include specific combinations of vocational factors of age, education, and work experience that are so unfavorable that an individual who meets one of them will be deemed to be unable to adjust to other work and therefore will be found disabled at step 5 of the sequential evaluation process (POMS DI 25010.001). The three exceptions include: 1) Arduous Unskilled Work; 2) No Work Experience; and 3) Lifetime Commitment.
This blog post will focus on the second exception of No Work Experience. To be found disabled under this exception the individual must meet all of the following criteria: 1) the individual has a severe impairment(s); 2) the individual has no past relevant work; 3) the individual is age 55 or older; and 4) the individual has no more than a limited education. Majority of this exception’s criteria is fairly cut and dry. Past relevant work and severe impairments are noted in the regulations. Limited education is defined as “formal schooling completed at the seventh through 11th grade level” (POMS DI 25001.001). Overall, the No Work Experience exception gives some grace to those disabled individuals who are older and lack education as well as work experience.