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Medical-Vocational Guidelines For Social Security Disability

When determining whether or not a claimant is eligible for Social Security disability benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) first refers to its listing of impairments (Blue Book) to see if the claimant has a severe, medically determinable impairment. If the claimant doesn’t meet one of the conditions listed in the Blue Book, the SSA then uses a set of medical-vocational guidelines to help influence its decision. To use the medical-vocational guidelines, the SSA takes into account an claimant’s education, the skill level of his/her last job, whether or not those skills can be transferred to a new job, and his/her physical residual functional capacity.

Medical-Vocational Guidelines | Houston SSD Attorney Herren Law

Even when the guidelines say that the claimant is “not disabled,” the claimant still has the possibility to argue against this and be approved for benefits. If you are applying for disability benefits with the SSA, or if you need to argue a “not disabled” ruling from the SSA’s medical-vocational guidelines, then call Houston SSDI attorney William Herren. At Herren Law, we have the experience successfully representing numerous clients, counseling them through their application and/or denial appeal and diligently representing them through every step of the way. To speak with us at Herren Law, call today at (713) 682-8194.

How the SSA Uses the Medical-Vocational Guidelines

Before applying the medical-vocational guidelines, the Social Security Administration looks at the following factors:

  • The claimant’s Residual Functional Capacity (RFC)
  • Education
  • Their last job and the skills it required
  • Whether those skills allow the claimant to work in another job

These factors are broken down into different levels and categories, which the SSA can better apply to its medical-vocational guidelines. For instance, education ranges from illiterate or unable to speak in English to high school graduate or more, including GEDs. Previous work experience is broken down into no skills, untransferable skills, and transferrable skills, for example.

Residual Functional Capacity

Education and job skills are pretty easy to understand, but most individuals aren’t aware of Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). In short, the RFC is a detailed assessment that assigns a level of work based on any strength-related limitations. The SSA takes sustainability into account when making these distinctions; for instance, a claimant’s RFC might be “heavy work” because he/she can lift more than 50 lbs and walk for six hours a day. The different levels of RFC include:

  • Sedentary work
  • Light work
  • Medium work
  • Heavy work
  • Very heavy work

For each of the RFC levels, there is a different set of the guidelines that the SSA uses to determine disability.

The Medical-Vocational Guidelines

By using the above factors (RFC, education, skills, and skill adaptability), you can then use the medical-vocational guidelines to determine whether or not you’re considered disabled by the SSA’s standards. The first step in using the guidelines is to locate the table for your age group and RFC. You would then need to find the educational and job experience rows that best describe you, and then see whether or not the guidelines say you’re disabled. An example medical-vocational guidelines might look like this:


Previous Work Experience


11th grade and below

No work skills


11th grade and below

Skills that are not transferable


11th grade and below Transferable work skills

Not disabled


It is important to note that claimants with a “very heavy work” RFC will generally not be approved for benefits.

Winning Disability Benefits Outside the Guidelines

If the medical-vocational guidelines say that you’re not disabled, you shouldn’t get discouraged just yet. For instance, your RFC may state that you’re not disabled, but you can still win your case if you have non-exertional impairments that limit what you can do. These non-exertional impairments may include:

  • Impairments affecting mental function, such as depression
  • Non-strength-related physical limitations, such as problems using your hands
  • Environmental limitations, such as an inability to be exposed to noise or temperature extremes

Get Legal Help With SSD Attorney Bill Herren Today

For claimant’s who have a disability that doesn’t meet the SSA’s Blue Book listing of impairments, the medical-vocational guidelines serve as an important tool that the SSA uses to better influence its decision on your case. If the SSA continues to deny your disability benefits, then it might be wise to contact an experienced SSDI attorney as soon as possible. At Herren Law, we work on a contingency basis, meaning that we don’t accept a fee unless we win your case. To get expert legal representation for your Social Security disability case, call our Houston law office today at (713) 682-8194.

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