Cited occupations must be within the claimant’s RFC. The claimant may be capable of performing occupations at several exertional levels. For example, we would generally expect a claimant with a medium RFC to be capable of performing medium, light, and sedentary occupations that do not exceed their RFC.
While you may cite occupations from the entire pool of unskilled work that the claimant can perform, citing occupations at the heaviest exertional levels the claimant can tolerate more clearly supports the determination of “not disabled” than does citing occupations from the lighter levels of work. Citing occupations at heavier exertional levels is especially important in denials where, given the claimant’s age, education, and work experience, an RFC for a lighter level of work would be consistent with a medical-vocational allowance.
EXAMPLE: A 55-year-old claimant with a high school education has an RFC for medium work. Although the claimant would have an occupational base of medium, light, and sedentary unskilled work, citing sedentary or light occupations may not support a medical-vocational denial as clearly as citing medium occupations—because an RFC for only light or sedentary work would generally be consistent with a finding of “disabled.”
We base our medical-vocational rules on the existence of unskilled work at all levels of exertion. Rule 204.00 in Appendix 2 addresses a maximum sustained work capability limited to heavy or very heavy work. If a claimant can perform very heavy work, we presume that they would generally be capable of adjusting to work at the heavy, medium, light, and sedentary levels, unless the claimant has additional limiting factors.
NOTE: If the claimant has only nonexertional limitations, their occupational base is for all unskilled occupations, from very heavy down to sedentary. For most claimants with only nonexertional limitations, you may cite some heavy, some very heavy, and some medium unskilled occupations. However, when the claimant is age 60 or above with a marginal education and unskilled work experience, citing sedentary, light, or medium occupations may not support a medical-vocational denial.