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Vocational Adjustment

Vocational Adjustment refers to the amount, if any, of adjustment to different tools, skills, and job situations which the Social Security Disability system deems reasonable for you based on your age, education, and work experience. In most cases, vocational adjustment works for you if you are nearing retirement age, but can make obtaining Social Security Disability Benefits more difficult if you are under 50 years old.

In order to qualify for disability benefits, the SSA must find that you are unable to do any work which you have done previously, and that you cannot reasonably be trained for any work which is available anywhere in the country. Your level of education, ability to speak English, and previous work experience all come into play when the Social Security Disability adjudicator decides exactly what kinds of vocational adjustment can reasonably be expected of you.

In most cases, a vocational specialist will look over your Social Security Disability file. Based on how much residual functioning capacity you have (i.e., whether you can do heavy, medium, light, or sedentary work and whether you can perform skilled or unskilled labor), the vocational specialist will make recommendations regarding whether vocational adjustment can be expected of you.

In most cases, if you are under 50 years old and are remotely capable of performing any kind of work at all, you will be expected to make vocational adjustments. The older you get, the more the SSA needs to show that work is available for you which would require less vocational adjustment before they can disqualify you for Social Security Disability Benefits.

In practice, those who are near retirement age (defined as ages 60-64) can not be expected to make any vocational adjustment which would require learning to use new tools or procedures. Those who are nearing retirement age (50-60) may be expected to make slight adjustments, but will generally not be expected to make a vocational adjustment which includes using skills which they have never used. Those who are younger are generally expected to be able to acquire new skills and learn new procedures as long as work exists for which they could reasonably be trained.