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Evaluation Considering Age, Education, and Work Experience

Excerpted from "Social Security Handbook". See the up-to-date, official Social Security Handbook at ssa.gov.

609. Evaluation Considering Age, Education, and Work Experience

609.1 How do we consider your age, education, and work experience when making a disability determination?

If your impairment(s) prevents you from doing your past relevant work, we consider the combined effect of your impairment, age, education, and work experience on your ability to work. If these four factors meet any one of three special medical-vocational profiles, we will usually find that you are disabled without further evaluation.

We will generally find you are disabled if you meet all of the conditions of A, B or C.

    1. You are not working.

    2. You have long-time work experience (at least 35 years) limited to arduous, unskilled, physical labor; and

    3. You have a sixth grade or less education; and

    4. You have a more than "not severe" impairment that prevents you from performing your previous kind of work.

    1. You have no past relevant work; and

    2. You are at least 55 years old; and

    3. You have less than a high school education; and

    4. You have an impairment that is more than "not severe" (see §606).

    1. You have a lifetime commitment to a field of work you can no longer do because of a severe impairment; and

    2. You are age 60 or older; and

    3. You have less than a high school education; and

    4. Your work background is unskilled, semiskilled, or skilled work but you have no skills to do other work within your physical and mental capacities.

609.2 Does your age affect disability determinations?

We only consider your age if we have not been able to make a disability determination based on work activity, medical evidence and ability to do past work. Advancing age can be an increasingly limiting factor in a person's ability to adjust to other work. This may be especially true when advancing age is combined with lower levels of education and an unskilled or no work background. We consider your age as well as your education and work background when we determine whether you can adjust to other work in spite of your severe impairment.

609.3 Is unemployment due to advancing age enough to show you are unable to do substantial gainful activity?

Your advanced age may affect your capacity to compete for jobs. However, to be found disabled, your severe medical impairment(s) must be the primary reason you are unable to work. Unemployment due mainly to advancing age does not show that you are unable to do substantial gainful activity.

609.4 Is lack of an education enough to show you are unable to do substantial gainful activity?

Formal education and work experience that provides skills can enhance your ability to work and to adapt to a new kind of job if you have an impairment that prevents you from doing your past work. However, a lack of formal schooling (or limited formal education) does not necessarily show you are unable to adjust to other work. For example, you may have developed skills in your past work that you can use in other work that is within your remaining capacities. If you do not have skills from past work, you may still be able to do unskilled work that is within your abilities even though you have little or no formal education.

Last Revised: Jul. 26, 2005

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