TN 6 (02-15)
DI 25025.005 Using the Medical-Vocational Guidelines
Social Security Act (the Act) §§: 223(d)(2)(A) and 1614(a)(3)(B)
20 CFR §§: Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2, 404.1520(f), 404.1560 thru 404.1569(a), 416.920(f), and 416.960 thru 416.969(a)
Social Security Rulings (SSR): 96-9p, 86-8, 85-15, 83-14, 83-12, 83-11, and 83-10
A. The medical-vocational guidelines and sequential evaluation
1. Applying step 5
Apply step 5 of sequential evaluation only after determining the claimant:
is not performing substantial gainful activity (SGA);
has a severe impairment;
does not meet or equal a listed impairment;
cannot do any past relevant work (PRW) based on a function-by-function comparison of residual functional capacity (RFC) with the demands of PRW both as the claimant performed the job and as the occupation is generally performed in the national economy; and
does not meet one of the special medical-vocational profiles found in “Special Medical-Vocational Profiles” in DI 25010.001).
2. Exceptions to following the steps in order
It is not necessary to follow the steps in order when the claimant:
meets the requirements for expedited step 4 of sequential evaluation as described in “Expedited Vocational Assessment at Steps 4 and 5 of Sequential Evaluation” in DI 25005.005; or
is not performing SGA, has a severe impairment(s), cannot do PRW, and the adjudicator determines it is more expeditious to allow the case on a medical-vocational basis as described in “Curtailing Development of Fully Favorable Claims” in DI 24515.020 than it would be evaluate the claimant’s impairment(s) under the listings.
CAUTION: No matter how restrictive a claimant’s RFC, you must always develop the claimant’s PRW and perform step 4 of sequential evaluation prior to finding the claimant disabled at step 5 of sequential evaluation. See DI 25005.005D.1.a.
B. Using a rule to direct a determination
1. How to determine if a rule directs a determination
A rule directs a determination when:
the claimant can do substantially all of the range of work represented by the exertional requirements for Table No. 1, 2, or 3; and
his or her vocational factors of age, education, and past work experience meet the criteria of a rule.
To determine if the claimant’s vocational factors meet the criteria of a rule, use the categories for:
age found in “Age as a Vocational Factor” in DI 25015.005 and Borderline Age in DI 25015.006,
education found in “Education as a Vocational Factor” in DI 25015.010, and
past work experience found in “Work Experience as a Vocational Factor” in DI 25015.015.
NOTE: Rule 204.00 never directs a determination. See DI 25025.005C.1. in this section.
2. The implication of a rule directing a determination
When the claimant’s exertional RFC and vocational factors of age, education, and past work experience meet the criteria of a rule, the issues of work adjustment and existence of work in the national economy for the claimant are resolved.
If the rule directs a determination of:
not disabled, the rule supports our finding that the claimant can adjust to other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy; or
disabled, the rule supports our finding that the claimant is not capable of adjusting to other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy.
IMPORTANT: If the claimant has impairment-related exertional and nonexertional limitations, and the applicable exertional rule would result in a finding of disabled, use that rule to direct a medical-vocational allowance.
EXAMPLE: A 55-year-old claimant with a high school education and unskilled past work experience has a light RFC and nonexertional limitations of occasional bilateral handling. The claimant meets the criteria of rule 202.04 considering his exertional limitations only. The decision column for that rule says “disabled”. Use rule 202.04 to direct a determination of disability. Do not consider the additional impact occasional handling would have on the light occupational base.
C. Using a rule as a framework for a determination
Because the claimant’s RFC and vocational factors of age, education, and past work experience must meet the criteria for a rule to direct a determination, we apply the medical-vocational rules as a framework for a determination more often than we use them to direct a determination.
1. How to determine if a rule should be used as a framework
When a claimant’s exertional RFC or vocational factors do not meet the criteria of a medical-vocational rule, use the medical-vocational guidelines as a framework for a determination.
IMPORTANT: Because rule 204.00 involves consideration of nonexertional limitations or restrictions, it never directs a determination. Always use rule 204.00 as a framework for a determination.
2. Implications for using a rule as a framework for a determination
When we use a medical-vocational rule as a framework, the rule provides guidance for the disability determination.
This means that using a rule as a framework does not always resolve the issue of whether a significant number of jobs exist in the national economy to which the claimant can adjust.
For instructions on how to address the issue of a significant number of jobs when using a rule as a framework, see “A Significant Number of Jobs to Support a Framework “Not Disabled” Determination” in DI 25025.030.