People often classify jobs are ‘skilled’ or ‘unskilled.’ If you have filed for disability benefits, or you are thinking about it, someone may have told you whether your skills can ‘transfer’ or not. However, you have not been told how ‘transferable skills’ might affect your disability claim.
As an example, we will consider how the Social Security Administration (“Social Security) would handle the job skills of two people: Linda, who has worked in a warehouse for 18 years, and Frank, a paralegal for 12 years.
But first, we need to know more about transferable skills and disability claims.
Applying for Disability
Social Security provides two benefit programs for people with disabilities: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). For this article, we will only look at SSDI.
After someone applies for SSDI, Social Security caseworkers begin reviewing the application. For applicants to qualify for SSDI benefits, they must show they have:
- worked at jobs covered by Social Security,
- earned a specific number of work credits,
- a medical condition prevents them from working at their current position, and
- that medical condition prevents them from working at other jobs.
In our examples, Linda and Frank definitely meet the first three criteria. However, the last bullet point is where transferable skills come in. Will the skills Linda and Frank have picked up enable them to start new careers?
Transferable Skills Matter
Social Security does consider whether an applicant can do any other type of work. They make their decision by considering the following factors:
- Medical condition
- Past work experience
- Transferable skills
“…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 an occupation which is above the unskilled level (requires more than 30 days to learn).”
For example, Linda’s job in the warehouse might be considered unskilled because it took less than 30 days to learn and does not require ‘significant judgment.’ However, Frank’s duties as a paralegal likely would be considered skilled. Are Linda’s and Frank’s skills transferable?
Skills might transfer from one job to the next when workers are using the same or similar:
Tools, machines, raw materials, products, processes, or services.
Social Security documentation quoted above also states the following:
“We do not expect people to be able to adjust to other work in jobs that are more complex than the ones they have actually performed.”
Linda’s work history indicates she would probably be classified as unskilled. As such, Social Security typically would not expect her to transfer to a complex job suddenly. This is true even if her physical condition would allow it.
As a skilled worker, Frank might be able to transfer his skills to a similar job, depending on his physical or mental impairment. However, Social Security would not expect Frank to transfer to a CPA job simply because it is also a skilled office job.
Learn More About How Transferable Skills Might Affect Your Disability Claim.
The attorneys at The Law Offices of Martin Taller have more than 50 years’ experience in the legal field. Much of their work involves Social Security disability cases. For a free consultation, call us at 714-385-8100. From our office located in Anaheim, we assist clients throughout Southern California.