Of course, the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses extensive income-related criteria to determine benefits. An applicant’s living arrangement is another factor used to determine how much Supplemental Security Income (SSI) he or she may receive.


Social Security considers chronological age in combination with residual functional capacity, education, and work experience. It does not consider the ability to adjust to other work solely on the basis of age. The SSA considers advancing age to be an increasingly limiting factor in the ability to make an adjustment to other work.

If under age 50, for the most part, Social Security does not consider age as having a serious effect on the ability to adjust to other work. Yet, in some circumstances, it considers that some persons between the ages of 45 and 49 are more limited in their ability to adjust to other work than individuals under the age of 45.

For persons over 50 but under 55, a severe impairment and limited work experience may seriously affect the ability to adjust to other work.

If older than 55, age significantly affects the ability to adjust to other work. Social Security has particular, specialized rules for individuals in this category who are closely approaching retirement age (age 60 and above).

*Work Experience

When Social Security considers the ability to adjust to work an applicant has not done before (not the past work, but other work activity), it considers vocational factors of residual functional capacity, age, educational and past work experience (think potential job skills).

An applicant may not be able to perform the lifting required by past work but may have the ability to adjust to other less strenuous work based on residual functional capacity, age, education and past work experience. Social Security could make a finding that an applicant could use his or her acquired job skills to work in a less strenuous occupation that doesn’t involve heavy lifting.

TIP: job skills do not transfer UP.  If a person worked a job that has a skill rating of 4 (SVP= 4), those job skills cannot transfer to a more skilled position (say, a job with an SVP of 5).  Skills only transfer laterally or down (transfer to a job of the of the same or lesser skill level).  Get SVP ratings from the VE for the past work, and SVP ratings for a job to which there are transferable skills.  Also, job skills do not transfer in a vacuum.  There is a Ruling specifically on point that addresses the necessary criteria for a successful transfer of job skills.


Social Security also considers how many years of school an applicant has completed and whether any type of special job training, trade or vocational school has been completed when it assesses the ability to adjust to other work. The absence of formal education does not necessarily mean an individual is uneducated or limited in the ability to adjust to working. Social Security considers evidence significantly indicating that educational achievement is higher or lower than the last grade completed.

Social Security generally considers illiteracy and inability to communicate in English as an educational factor that limits an individual’s ability to adjust to other work.

TIP: look for psychological testing with a WRAT test.  The WRAT will usually give an academic performance for reading writing and math. Valid IQ testing may also identify something useful. It can be helpful: for example, if the WRAT shows a math deficit, someone with true third-grade mathematics probably should not be placed in a job as a cashier. Someone whose literacy hovers at 4th or 5th grade will probably not be a really good information clerk.

If an applicant has recently and successfully completed education or training that allows entry into another specific skilled or semiskilled occupation and the applicant is otherwise physically and mentally able to work in this occupation, Social Security will find that the applicant is not disabled.

TIP: look for a closed period of disability here.  See another blog about seeking a closed period of disability.  Also, get details on the education.  Were there significant accommodations like untimed testing, recording lectures, free tutoring, were the classes scheduled hours apart to permit necessary rest, could the claimant sit and stand at will during class, etc.

Stay tuned to the next blog for more on how age, education, and work experience affect an individual’s remaining capacity for work.

The assistance of an experienced disability attorney may help you navigate the often lengthy and complicated process of applying for disability benefits. Retain the services of an experienced, knowledgeable, and qualified Social Security Disability attorney. We offer free consultations, so there is absolutely nothing to lose! Contact the Sullivan Law Office to get the help you need in the Louisville metro area. Call 888-587-0228 or visit us online.disability benefits, disability attorney, Social Security Administration (SSA)