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Social Security Disability Law: Understanding Vocational Adjustments

In order to bring a successful Social Security disability claim, an applicant must establish that their disability or medical impairment prevents them from working. In practice, this means proving two separate things: 

  1. You cannot return to your previous occupation; and
  2. You cannot reasonably be expected to ‘retrain’ to a less strenuous position. 

The Social Security Administration (SSA) refers to job retraining as making a ‘vocational adjustment’. Below, our Rogers, AR Social Security disability lawyers provide a more detailed explanation of vocational adjustments and SSDI/SSI claims. 

What is a Vocational Adjustment?

Under federal law, an SSDI or SSI disability applicant will only be approved for financial benefits if they cannot reasonably engage in any type of work given their “age, education, work experience, and skills.” 

As described by the Social Security Administration (SSA) in its official materials, a vocational adjustment is the process of learning a new skill or obtaining additional job credentials that allow an employee to transition into a new line of work. 

Before a disability claim is approved, the SSA considers whether a worker is a good candidate for a vocational adjustment. Even if you cannot reasonably return to your previous job, the SSA will at least check to see if you can be retrained for a less physically demanding form of employment. 

The SSA Views Younger Workers as More ‘Adjustable’

In the context of Social Security disability and vocational adjustments, age is considered to be one of the most important factors. Here is the general principle: The younger a Social Security disability applicant, the more likely the SSA will consider them suitable for alternative employment. If you are in your thirties and you are applying for Social Security disability benefits, the SSA considers you an appropriate candidate for significant job retraining efforts. In contrast, the SSA does not consider much (if any) job retraining to be appropriate for workers who are nearing their retirement age. 

Social Security Disability and Residual Functioning Capacity (RFC)

Whether you are applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, it is imperative that you provide comprehensive medical evidence to the agency. Among other things, this includes submitting something called a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form. 

Your doctor will use an RFC form to explain what you can and cannot do given your medical condition. All disability applicants should make sure that this form is completely accurate and that it fully accounts for the impact of your disability/impairment. Otherwise, the SSA may consider you for a vocational adjustment (job retraining) that is not actually appropriate given your condition. 

Call Our Social Security Disability Lawyers for Help

At Gallo Cazort & Co. Law Firm, our Social Security disability attorneys are strong advocates for disabled individuals and their families. If you have any questions about vocational adjustments, we are more than happy to help. Contact our firm today for a no cost, no obligation review of your Social Security disability claim. With an office in Rogers, we handle SSDI and SSI claims in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri.