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SSDI Step 5: Can You Do Any Work at All?
Let’s say that at Step 4, you are found to be unable to do any of your past relevant work. Regardless of the reason – it could be too strenuous or it could be too stressful – it is ruled that you cannot do it. What happens next?
Once your past work is out of the questions, there is really only one last issue to resolve: Can you do any other work? To answer this, Social Security looks at three main factors: your age, your education and your past work experience. By doing it this way, they can try to take an individualized look at each claimant. This “vocational profile” is a crucial part of an SSD case because many claims make it to Step 5. Also, it helps to understand who is more likely to get benefits. Before we look at how the factors are used in formula, let’s get the terms straight.
Can you figure out why your age matters? It is actually pretty sensible. Think of it this way: Who is more likely to be able to learn a brand new job – someone who is 25 or someone who is 60? Probably the person who is 25. Why? Simply because at a younger age you are more likely to adapt easily to a new work situation. Your body and mind might be a bit more adaptable. Some people can keep up, but most are more comfortable with the old way. At least that’s how the theory goes.
What this means for claimants is that the older you are, the easier it is to get SSD. It doesn’t mean that it is automatic if you are older, but it does mean that there are fewer hoops to jump through. By the way, Social Security age categories look like this: a “younger person” is a person under age 50; a “person approaching advanced age” is 50-54; a person of “advanced age” is 55 or older.
Have any thoughts on how education comes into play? Basically it follows the same logic as the age category. Who would have an easier time adapting to a brand new job – someone who cannot read or someone who has a college degree? Probably the person who went to college. This means that the more education you have, the more likely it is that you can do other jobs besides your past work.
Are you being punished for having a good education? Many of our clients get frustrated by this factor. They see it as Social Security’s way of rewarding folks who never finished high school. It may look like that on the surface, but it is not really that bad. Sure, there are cases where your hard-earned education can prepare you for a job switch. And sometimes this can lose your case. But more often than not, other factors can be brought into play so that education will not make the difference. This is another example of a place where a good advocate could help a lot.
The education categories are as follows : Illiteracy is not being able to read English; a marginal education is 6the grade or less; limited education is 7th grade through 11th grade; high school education and above is for high school graduates and anyone who has done college work or beyond. There is also a category for those folks who are unable to communicate in English. As you might imagine, there are not too many jobs available where you can get by without reading or speaking English. Almost all of them are unskilled.
This factor has to do with the skills you have picked up along the way. Some jobs are simpler than others , and these often don’t teach you too much that you could use in another line of work. More difficult jobs, however, often have something called “transferable skills.” When you have transferable skills, you have the ability to take what you learned in your past work and use it in another line of work that is less demanding. Even if the jobs seem unrelated, Social Security likes to make a case that there are transferable skills. If you have transferable skills, you are more likely to be able to pick up a new job.
One interesting example of transferable skills in unrelated jobs came about in one of our recent cases. A judge ruled that a former fireman had learned skills that would prepare him to do fire inspections and to be an insurance agent. How? Fire inspecting is obvious. Firefighters do that as part of their job. But selling insurance? According to the judge, the fireman’s exposure to arson and property damage made him familiar with the types of things that an insurance agent would do. Therefore, even though the claimant couldn’t meet the physical demands of fighting fires, he was still employable (according to the judge) because he could do the less demanding job in this other line of work. WE appealed the “insurance salesmen” and won. But you can see how complicated “transferability” is.Free SSD Evaluation