TN 7 (05-16)
DI 25015.010 Education as a Vocational Factor
20 CFR 404.1564 and 20 CFR 416.964
20 CFR 404.1568(d)(4) and 20 CFR 416.968(d)(4)
20 CFR 404 Subpart P Appendix 2 rule 201.00(d)
A. Policy for considering education as a vocational factor
Consider the claimant’s education with residual functional capacity (RFC), age, and work experience at step 5 of sequential evaluation.
B. Education as a vocational factor
Education means formal schooling or other training that contributes to the claimant’s ability to meet vocational requirements of work, such as basic:
C. Education categories
For adjudicative purposes, we have five education categories:
1. Illiterate or Unable to Communicate in English
An illiterate person generally has little or no formal schooling, but is often able to sign his or her name. Illiteracy is the inability to read or write a simple message such as short instructions or inventory lists, even if the person is capable of signing his or her name.
b. Unable to communicate in English
A person is unable to communicate in English when he or she cannot speak, understand, read, or write a simple message in English.
IMPORTANT: For making determinations of capacity for other work, it is generally immaterial in what, if any, non-English language an individual may be fluent. This is true regardless of where a person resides (in other words, even if a person resides in an area where English is not the predominant language)
c. When to apply illiterate or unable to communicate in English
This category applies when the claimant is unable to:
read a simple message (such as short instructions or inventory lists) in English,
write a simple message in English,
speak or understand a simple message in English, or
any combination of the above.
d. When to apply the Martinez Acquiescence Ruling (AR) 86-3(5) regarding the findings of illiterate or unable to communicate in English
The Martinez AR applies if the claimant resides in Texas, Louisiana, or Mississippi at the time of a determination or decision.
If the AR applies, then the adjudicator will make findings with respect to both illiteracy and inability to communicate in English.
For details on the Martinez AR, see DI 52750.000
2. Marginal Education
Formal schooling completed at a level of 6th grade or less.
3. Limited Education
Formal schooling completed at a level of 7th through 11th grade.
4. High School or More Education
Formal schooling completed at a level of 12th grade and above. Consider a general educational development (GED) certification as equivalent to a high school education.
5. High School or More - Provides for Direct Entry into Skilled or Semiskilled Work
Use this category if the claimant recently completed education that prepared him or her to do a specific skilled or semiskilled job.
D. Evidence to identify the appropriate education category
Consider all case evidence relevant to the issue of the claimant’s education, including self-reported information. Generally, use the highest grade of school completed.
NOTE: The Educational Info section under the Case Data tab of the Electronic Folder also provides education information.
For details about the Case Data Tab in eView, see DI 81005.045
1. Identifying the ability to communicate in English on the SSA-3368 (Disability Report – Adult)
Section 1 of the SSA-3368 asks about the abilities to speak, understand, read, and write English.
2. Identifying education on the SSA-3368
Section 5 of the SSA-3368 asks about education and training.
3. Identifying education on the SSA-3441 (Disability Report – Appeal)
Section 8.b of the SSA-3441 asks for additional information about education.
4. Identifying when other evidence shows more or less education than the numerical grade level of schooling completed
In some cases, the numerical grade level of formal schooling completed may not be representative of an individual's present educational achievements, which could be higher or lower. Should convincing evidence of this exist, the educational level will be determined on the basis of such evidence.
The kinds of responsibilities one assumed when working could clearly indicate the existence of intellectual capacities (e.g., reasoning ability, communication skills and arithmetical ability) far greater than would be indicated by the amount of formal schooling he or she completed.
Special education records or educational testing records in the case record could clearly demonstrate a lower level of educational benefit than indicated by numerical grade level.
E. When an education discrepancy is not material to the disability determination
If you have conflicting information about education, but all applicable medical-vocational rules direct the same determination, then you do not need to resolve the education discrepancy.
In this situation, use the number of years of education (or GED) the claimant reported on the most recent disability report to select the medical-vocational rule.
F. Education that provides for direct entry into skilled or semiskilled work
1. Policy for evaluating whether education provides for direct entry into skilled or semiskilled work
The significance of education that provides for direct entry depends on:
Evaluating education that provides for direct entry into skilled or semiskilled work is similar to evaluating whether skills transfer to other work. The education must provide an advantage in doing a particular skilled or semiskilled occupation at a high degree of proficiency with a minimal amount of job orientation.
2. Evaluating the recency of education
In order to evaluate the recency of education, consider the time lapse between the education and the date of adjudication, the date last insured, or the prescribed period ending date, whichever is earlier.
The shorter the period of education and the lesser the skill of the occupation it prepared the claimant for, the shorter time lapse we should consider that the education could provide for direct entry into that occupation.
The longer the period of education and the higher the skill the occupation it prepared the claimant for, the longer time lapse we should consider that the education could provide for direct entry into that occupation.
EXAMPLE: A claimant who completed a registered nurse bachelor’s degree program two years ago would be more likely to have an education that provided for direct entry than a claimant who completed a six-month travel agent training course two years ago.
3. When direct entry into skilled or semiskilled work is material to the disability determination
The issue of direct entry education may be material to the disability determination only if the claimant:
is a high school graduate (or equivalent) or more;
is age 50 or older;
recently completed specific education designed to prepare an individual for a specific skilled or semiskilled job (for example, truck driving school, nursing school, law school, or cosmetology school); and
has the residual functional capacity (RFC) or mental residual functional capacity (MRFC) to do that skilled or semiskilled occupation (for example, truck driver, nurse, lawyer, or cosmetologist).
4. When direct entry into skilled or semiskilled work is not material to the disability determination
The issue of direct entry education is not material to the disability determination if:
the rules that apply to the claimant’s age, work experience, and RFC result in not disabled for both the “provides for direct entry” and “does not provide for direct entry” rules;
the claimant’s RFC or MRFC is consistent with the ability to do no more than unskilled work; or
the education or training was completed more than 5 years prior to adjudication.
5. Developing evidence to document direct entry into skilled or semiskilled work
If the issue of direct entry is material to a case, develop and document the following information:
ensure that the claimant has a high school (or equivalent) or more education because direct entry applies only to this education level;
if not available on the SSA-3368 or SSA-3441, obtain the date when the claimant completed the recent education;
document information about how long the claimant attended the education, what the education covered, and any certifications or degrees achieved;
determine the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) skilled or semiskilled occupation(s) the education provided the claimant direct entry into; and
verify the physical and mental demands of the occupation(s) that the education prepared the claimant to do.
IMPORTANT: If there is reference to recent education in the claimant’s medical evidence, and the issue of direct entry is material to the disability determination, develop and resolve the direct entry issue prior to making the disability determination.
6. Providing a rationale for the direct entry decision:
If there is a potential issue of direct entry, explain why direct entry does or does not apply. If the claimant has recent education that provides for direct entry into an occupation, cite the corresponding specific skilled or semiskilled DOT occupation.
EXAMPLE: A 58-year-old claimant with a high school education recently completed medical coding training one year prior to adjudication. He attended the program for 18 months, and received a medical record coder certification. His RFC permits a full range of light work. Use medical-vocational rule 202.05 to deny the claim. Cite the DOT occupation Medical Record Coder.