An important part of the Social Security Disability analysis arises, especially if the claimant is over 50, as to whether the person has obtained skills from his or her prior work that could transfer into an easier, less demanding job. SSR 82-41 explains the concepts of “skills” and “transferability of skills” and clarifies how these concepts are used.
Skill is defined as 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 (requires more than 30 days to learn). It is practical and familiar knowledge of the principles and processes of an art, science or trade, combined with the ability to apply them in practice in a proper and approved manner. This includes activities like making precise measurements, reading blueprints, and setting up and operating complex machinery. A skill gives a person a special advantage over unskilled workers in the labor market.
Transferability is defined as applying work skills which a person has demonstrated in vocationally relevant past jobs to meet the requirements of other skilled or semiskilled jobs. Transferability is distinct from the usage of skills recent learned in school which may serve as a basis for direct entry into skilled work.
SSR 82-41 also explains the difference between a “skill” and a “trait” explaining that the qualities of “alertness,” “coordination and dexterity with the use of hands or feet for the rapid performance of repetitive work tasks” are traits and not skills. “It is the acquired capacity to perform the work activities with facility (rather than the traits themselves) that gives rise to potentially transferable skills.
Finally, SSR 82-41 specifically provides that the ALJ set forth findings of fact regarding the issue of transferability of skills. SSR 82-41 states “When the issue of skills and their transferability must be decided, the adjudicator or ALJ is required to make certain findings of fact and include them in the written decision. Findings should be supported with appropriate documentation. When a finding is made that a claimant has transferable skills, the acquired work skills must be identified, and specific occupations to which the acquired work skills are transferable must be cited in the State agency’s determination or ALJ’s decision. Evidence that these specific skills or semiskilled jobs exist in significant numbers in the national economy should be included (the regulation take administrative notice only of the existence of unskilled sedentary, light, and medium jobs in the national economy).
Transferability of skills is an important part of the disability analysis and can potentially lead to a denial. It is the last step in the disability analysis to decide whether someone should be determined Disabled. Vocational expert testimony is extremely important and can seem to vary based off who is testifying. Having an experienced attorney represent you who knows the regulations and the right questions to ask during cross examination can potentially make the difference between winning or losing a claim for benefits.