DI 25003.001 Vocational Specialists
Social Security Act, as amended §§ 216(i), 223(d)(2)(A), and 1614(a)(3)(B)
20 CFR Part 404 Subpart P, Appendix 2
20 CFR §§ 404.1566 thru 404.1569, and 416.966 thru 416.969
A. Definition of Vocational Specialist (VS)
A vocational specialist is an individual with specialized knowledge and experience who serves as a vocational resource for a state Disability Determination Service (DDS) or federal adjudicating unit.
The adjudicating unit may have a dedicated VS, or designate another individual or individuals, such as a:
ensures consideration of the residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment with vocational factors such as age, education, training, and work experience; and
trains and mentors staff on vocational issues.
B. Vocational review issues
Vocational review issues include, but are not limited to:
ability to perform work within assessed Residual Functional Capacity (RFC)/Mental Residual Functional Capacity (MRFC) limitations;
relevancy of past work;
identification of job skills and duties;
identifying the claimant’s past occupation in the national economy;
transferability of skills;
application of borderline age;
onset and ending dates as it relates to the vocational assessment;
sufficiency of the vocational evidence in file;
special medical-vocational profiles;
illiteracy or inability to communicate in English; and
estimating the remaining occupational base.
C. When to use a VS
Consult a VS when:
1. Disability examiner (DE) development prior to VS consultation
DEs have sufficient expertise to assess the vast majority of vocational issues; and, must complete the initial vocational development prior to consulting the VS. This includes obtaining a complete 15-year work history, and attempting to resolve Steps 4 and 5 of sequential evaluation.
2. VS consultation
Examples of complex vocational issues that may require VS consultation include:
Determinations made in the 8th Circuit under the Brock AR – AR 14-1(8). (See details on Brock AR per, DI 25003.001D, in this section.)
Determining skills acquired from a job and whether those skills are transferable. (SSR 82-41).
Determining the functional demands and job duties of the job as ordinarily required by employers throughout the national economy. (SSR 82-61).
Considering the remaining occupational base for a case where the claimant has an:
RFC that represents a compromised range of sedentary work. (SSR 83-12, SSR 83-14, SSR 96-9p).
RFC between two levels of exertion. (SSR 83-14).
RFC limitation of ability to sit or stand that falls between exertional levels. (SSR 83-12).
“unusual” non-exertional RFC limitations. (SSR 83-14).
NOTE: State agencies may purchase the services of vocational evaluation workshops to assist with resolution of complex case-specific vocational issues. See details on Use of Work Evaluations per DI 22515.035.
D. Brock Acquiescence Ruling (AR)
IMPORTANT: This ruling applies to determinations or decisions made in the Eighth Circuit (Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota) at all levels of administrative review.
AR 14-1(8) Requiring Vocational Specialist (VS) or Vocational Expert (VE) Evidence When an Individual has a Severe Mental Impairment(s)