TN 7 (04-17)

DI 25025.025 Vocational Factors Do Not Match a Medical-Vocational Rule

Citations: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, 85-15, 83-14, 83-12, 83-11, 83-10, and 82-41.

A. Using borderline age for determinations

Use a rule as a framework for a favorable determination when using the borderline age provisions. See the instructions for “Borderline Age” in DI 25015.006.

B. Unstated assumptions in the medical-vocational guidelines

When we published the medical-vocational rules, we made assumptions about the combinations of residual functional capacity (RFC), age, education, and past work experience that we use when evaluating claimants filing for disability. Some of those assumptions were that claimants who were illiterate or unable to communicate in English would not have skilled or semiskilled past relevant work (PRW), and that younger individuals with a high school education would have skilled or semiskilled PRW.

Because of those assumptions, we have no rules:

  • for younger individuals (ages 45-49) with a sedentary RFC, high school education, and unskilled work experience, or

  • for claimants who are illiterate or unable to communicate in English and have skilled or semiskilled past work experience and no transferable skills.

However, regulations § 404.1565 and § 416.965 indicate that we treat a claimant who has no transferable skills the same as a claimant with unskilled PRW. If we used rules for skilled or semiskilled work with no transferable skills and limited or less education for claimants who are illiterate or unable to communicate in English, our determination would be inconsistent with the regulations. In the unusual case in which an illiterate or unable to communicate in English claimant had transferable skills, the rule for limited or less education and transferable skills would apply, because transferable skills permit adjustment to other work regardless of other unfavorable vocational factors.

EXAMPLE: A 47-year-old claimant who is illiterate or unable to communicate in English has an RFC for sedentary work and skilled or semiskilled PRW with no transferable skills. Rule 201.17 for a claimant who is illiterate or unable to communicate in English with unskilled or no PRW indicates a finding of disabled is appropriate. Rule 201.19, which would apply to a claimant who is 47 years old with a limited or less education and skilled or semiskilled PRW with no transferable skills indicates a finding of not disabled is appropriate. Using Rule 201.19 in this case scenario would yield a result inconsistent with our regulations.

C. If no applicable rule reflects the claimant’s PRW

If no applicable rule reflects the claimant’s PRW, use the following guidelines to identify the appropriate rule to use as a framework:

Example Number

Claimant’s past relevant work

Use the closest rule indicating