Acquired Skills and Transferability
In Social Security’s five step analysis, step 4: Past Relevant Work, can have a big impact on whether or not your claim will be approved. This is where the Social Security Administration determines if a claimant can do their past work. If social security determines you can do your past work, they will find that you are not entitled to benefits.
If it is determined that you are unable to do your past work, it must next be determined whether or not you have skills that are transferable. Per Social Security Regulation 82-41 a skill is determined to be knowledge of a work activity which requires the exercise of significant judgment that goes beyond the carrying out of simple job duties and is acquired through performance of an occupation which is above the unskilled level. A job that has a skill, requires more than 30 days to learn.
For the purposes of disability, depending on the skills learned and the length of time they took to be acquired, a job is assigned a Specific Vocational Preparation (SVP).
SVP 1 – Short demonstration only
SVP 2 – Beyond short demonstration up to and including 1 month
SVP 3 – Over 1 month up to and including 3 months
SVP 4 – Over 3 months up to and including 6 months
SVP 5 – Over 6 months up to and including 1 year
SVP 6 – Over 1 year up to and including 2 years
SVP 7 – Over 2 years up to and including 4 years
SVP 8 – Over 4 years up to and including 10 years
SVP 9 – Over 10 years
Occupations in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) at SVP 1 and 2 are generally considered unskilled. SVP 3 and 4 semi-skilled, and SVP 5-9 skilled.
In order for a skill to be found transferable, an individual must be able to use knowledge or techniques that were learned in their prior jobs to other skilled or semiskilled work. There are no acquired skills from an unskilled job, therefore, you cannot transfer skills to an unskilled job.
At the lower level of semiskilled work (SVP 3), transferability of skills is usually not obtainable from this type of work. This simple type of work, where skill activities are minimal, an administrative law judge can make the determination that the worker has little vocational advantage over an unskilled person, and therefore, does not have transferable skills.
When considering occupations with a skilled level, these are jobs that typically require more training or a certain level of education. The more skills that have been obtained from a person’s prior work, the less difficulty they will have in transferring skills to other jobs.
When determining whether there are jobs of which the skills transfer to, they must also take into consideration medical factors. If a person is limited in physical or mental ability, those limitations may preclude the jobs the skills are transferring to. Also, when determining transferability for a person over the age of 50, there must be very little, if any, adjustment in the work setting.
In the setting of a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge, there is a vocational expert who helps by testifying to a person’s skills and whether they are transferable or not. An experienced social security attorney would be best able to cross-examine the vocational expert to make a proper determination of transferability of skills.