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An important aspect of your past relevant work is the skills you may have learned on the job. Social Security analyzes skills using the Specific Vocational Preparation (always referred to as SVP) criteria set forth in Appendix C of the Dictionary of Occupational Titles.

The SSA recognizes three classifications of skill level: unskilled work, semi-skilled work and skilled work. Let's look at each:

Unskilled work is defined as "work which needs little or no judgment to do simple duties that can be learned on the job in a short period of time. … a person can usually learn to do the job in 30 days, and little specific vocational preparation and judgment are needed. A person does not gain work skills by doing unskilled jobs." See 20 C.F.R 404.1568(a).

Semi-skilled work "needs some skills but does not require doing the more complex work duties." Semi-skilled work is "less complex than skilled work, but more complex than unskilled work." 20 C.F.R 404.1568(b).

Skilled work requires a person to use judgment. "Skilled work may require laying out work, estimating quality, determining the suitability and needed quantities of materials, making precise measurements, reading blueprints or other specifications, or making necessary computations or mechanical adjustments to control or regulate the work. Other skilled jobs may require dealing with people, facts, or figures or abstract ideas at a high level of complexity." 20 C.F.R 404.1568(c).

Why does this matter? Well, after Social Security has determined that you cannot return to your past relevant work at step 4 of the sequential evaluation process, the SSA considers your ability to do other work. And when assessing your ability to do other work, your job skills are a strong factor. How strong? If those acquired job skills can transfer to other jobs you are able to perform, your disability claim will be denied.

There will be more on the topic of job skills and transferability of skills in upcoming posts. To receive the frequent updates to this site, please subscribe to my feed. Updates are also available by email.