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 third exception of Lifetime Commitment. To be found disabled under this exception the individual must meet all of the following criteria: 1) the individual must not be working or working under substantial gainful activity level; 2) the individual must have 30 years or more commitment to a field of work that is unskilled or semi-skilled/skilled but with no transferable skills; work; 3) the individual can no longer perform this past work because of a severe impairment(s); and 4) the individual has no more than a limited education. It is important to note that the 30 years of lifetime commitment does not necessary need to be all at one job. Instead, it could be for several employers, however the work done has to be in a field of very similar nature. Overall, the Lifetime Commitment exception gives some grace to those individuals who have a strong work history in a specific field but have limited education as well as other skills to perform other work.