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At step 5 of the sequential evaluation process, the SSA considers your vocational abilities in addition to your medical condition, age and education to determine whether or not you can perform other work.

Acquired job skills can affect the outcome at step 5 if those skills can readiliy transfer to other jobs. Vocational skills trump age in a Social Security disability claim.

Let's look at an example to see how it works.

Suppose we have a 56 year old car mechanic who can no longer perform that medium exertional level job. He is given a residual functional capacity at the light exertional level. For an unskilled worker or a worker without transferable skills, the Medical-Vocational Guidelines would direct a finding of "disabled" under grid rule 202.04 or 202.06. However, if there is a determination that the worker has acquired job skills that transfer to skilled or semi-skilled jobs within his residual functional capacity, a finding of "not disabled" is directed by grid rule 202.07.

The acquired skills must be "readily transferable to a significant range of skilled work within an individual's residual functional capacity" to deny the claim at step 5. See Medical-Vocational Rules 201.00(e) and 202.00(e).

At a hearing, testimony of a vocational expert would be required regarding the acquired skills and the jobs to which they would transfer. Whenever transferable skills are at issue in a claim, you have to be prepared to cross-examine the vocational expert with finesse. Remember, disability hearings where transferable skills are contested are pretty rare – maybe 2 or 3 times in a hundred hearings. And each one of those cases has unique facts. So the vocational expert is way out of his or her comfort zone.

Read Social Security Ruling 82-41. Read it, print it out and take it with you to the hearing. Ruling 82-41 is still the touchstone for job skills and transferability.