To prevail on a disability case the claimant must first show that they are no longer engaging in substantial gainful activity due to a severe medical impairment and can no longer perform past relevant work. In the final step of disability evaluation, adjudicators consider a claimant’s age, education, training and past work experience to determine if there are other jobs in the national economy that the claimant can perform. The vocational rules used by Social Security Administration warrant a finding of disability for individuals of advanced age (age 55-59) or closely approaching advanced age (age 50-54) if reduced to light or sedentary work, respectively, but not if they have transferable skills.
For Social Security Administration’s purposes, a skill is defined as knowledge of a work activity which requires the exercise of significant judgment that goes beyond the carrying out of simple job duties and is acquired through performance of a skilled or semi-skilled occupation. Examples of skills include setting up and operating complex machinery, making precise measurements, answering a multi-line telephone, or handling large amounts of money. Skills typically require more than 30 days to learn and should be differentiated from unskilled tasks such as filing papers, basic food preparation, basic driving, answering a standard phone line, or routine money handling tasks. An individual who has acquired such skills through formal education or vocational training may be found capable of direct entry or adjusting to other work.
However, there are also special provisions under SSR 82-41. To find that an individual who is of advanced age and limited to sedentary work as transferable skills to sedentary occupations, there must be very little, if any vocational adjustment required in terms of tools, work processes, work settings, or the industry. The same is true for individuals who are 60 and older and limited to light work exertion. A vocational expert is often necessary to determine whether the adjustment is significant.