Identification Number:
DI 25003 TN 11
Intended Audience:See Transmittal Sheet
Originating Office:ORDP ODP
Title:Vocational Specialists
Type:POMS Full Transmittals
Program:All Programs
Link To Reference:


Part DI – Disability Insurance

Chapter 250 – Medical-Vocational Evaluation

Subchapter 03 – Vocational Specialists

Transmittal No. 11, 06/21/2024



Originating Component


Effective Date



ODP is revising this POMS section in light of the publication of SSA’s final rule changing the relevant work period for past relevant work (PRW) from 15 years to 5 years. In addition to updating references to the relevant work period, we are removing a reference to a Social Security Ruling (SSR) that is being rescinded. We are also making minor revisions to ensure the use of inclusive, plain language throughout.

Summary of Changes

DI 25003.001 Vocational Specialists

We revised a reference to the 15 year period for PRW to 5 years.

We removed a reference to SSR 82-61.

We revised text to conform with language guidance on gender neutrality.

DI 25003.001 Vocational Specialists


Social Security Act, as amended §§ 216(i), 223(d)(2)(A), and 1614(a)(3)(B)
20 CFR §§ 404.1566 thru 404.1569, and 416.966 thru 416.969
SSR 00-04p

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:

  • quality reviewer,

  • senior disability examiner, or

  • other appropriately qualified personnel to perform the VS role.

The VS:

  • 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.

For information on designating vocational specialists, see DI 25003.005.

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; and

  • estimating the remaining occupational base.

C. When to use a VS

Consult a VS when:

  • a vocational issue is beyond your level of expertise; and

  • you do not have a clear understanding of the effects of limitations on the claimant’s remaining occupational base.

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 5-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:

  1. 1. 

    Determinations made in the 8th Circuit under the Brock (See details on Brock AR per, DI 25003.001D, in this section.)

  2. 2. 

    Determining skills acquired from a job and whether those skills are transferable. (SSR 82-41).

  3. 3. 

    Determining the functional demands and job duties of the occupation as ordinarily required by employers throughout the national economy.

  4. 4. 

    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)

DI 25003 TN 11 - Vocational Specialists - 6/22/2024