When applying for a disability benefit the Social Security Administration (SSA) typically requires that the disability is listed in their Blue Book.
However, if your medical condition and disability don’t match exactly in a listing, the SSA may award you a disability benefit based on your functional limitations via a Medical Vocational Allowance (MVA).
In order to qualify using the MVA, the SSA goes through a thorough evaluation of your age, disability and work experience before arriving at a decision. It also requires you take part in a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) test performed by your physician or a doctor appointed by the SSA.
What is the Medical Vocational Allowance?
To see if you qualify for a disability benefit under an MVA, the SSA has to first evaluate your residual functional capacity (RFC).
After doing this it will decide if you are able to do a previous job with your disability or if there is any other job you can do in the place where you live. It looks at specific features related to your own unique situation with one of the greatest emphasis being on your age.
The older you are the more likely you are to qualify for a disability benefit using the MVA, as the SSA considers older people are less likely to adapt to a new type of job.
An MVA approval can provide you with eligibility for SSI (Supplemental Security Income) and SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) programs. An MVA is granted when the SSA has reviewed your medical records and 15 years of work history.
As soon as it has been established that you are not capable of doing some kind of other work based on your job skills, your age your educational level, and your current functional limitations, a disability benefit may be granted.
Vision Loss and MVA
If your vision is poor, in order to qualify for disability benefits with partial sight or poor vision, you are normally required to meet a Blue Book listing. However, it is not always possible to get an exact match in the Blue Book for your vision loss.
If your disability does not meet a Blue Book listing, you could still qualify for disability benefits under an MVA. To qualify for this allowance, you must be able to prove that your poor vision means you have reduced functionality so that you are unable to work in the job you used to or any other job that could earn you a sufficient income.
To qualify for disability benefits through the SSA for vision loss you will have to provide your medical history showing that you have been partially sighted for at least 2 years and this vision loss is expected to continue for another 2 years.
Further proof that is normally requested is the record of treatment for your vision loss that reveal your sight hasn’t improved and you are unable to work to make an income.
How Functional Limitations Are Determined
After requesting an MVA, the SSA’s Disability Determination Services will have a doctor evaluate your limitations. This is called a Residual Function Capacity (RFC) test. The RFC test evaluates what work you could do after taking into account all of the limitations your severe medical conditions cause you. This includes the following physical limitations:
- your lack of ability to see, hear and speak;
- your lack of ability to tolerate high or low temperatures, high moisture levels; humidity, noise, dust, fumes, odors, gases, poor ventilation and vibrations;
- your lack of ability to handle big objects;
- the difficulties you have with kneeling, crouching or crawling;
- the difficulties you have when using your fingers to climb stairs or ladders;
- whether you are able to work in hazardous working conditions like with or around machinery;
- whether you can work at heights without the need for protection.
Also assessed are the difficulties you have with the following:
The RFC also assesses your mental limitations, such as:
- whether you can maintain concentration and attention at work for extended lengths of time;
- whether you can understand and remember instructions;
- whether you can carry out work duties throughout a complete day;
- how well you can get along with people in your workplace or the general public;
- whether you can cope with changes in the work environment;
- whether you can respond in the right way to supervisors and co-workers in normal working conditions.
As soon as your physical and mental limitations have been assessed you will be allocated an RFC level. The SSA has a grid of rules and if you have a particular RFC level you should automatically be considered disabled.
For example, if you are more than 49 years old and you can only do sedentary work you'll be automatically granted disability benefits unless all your previous work was sedentary or you possess the job skills or recent job training that permits you to do sedentary work.
A second example is if you're at least 55 years old and can only do light work but you are unable to lift more than 10 to 20 pounds, you will be awarded disability benefits automatically unless your previous work was also light or you have learned new job skills recently allowing you to do light work.
This is because the SSA considers an older person has more difficulties adapting to new work situations.
How is Your RFC Assessment Used?
After you have submitted your RFC form the SSA will examine your past relevant work and decide if there is any less demanding work you can do or easily learn to do.
The SSA has specific rules that are found in a series of tables called the Medical Vocational Guidelines. Each rule lays out combinations of relevant factors including your RFC, age, education, and work experience which determine if the SSA decides if you are capable of participating in other work.
These guidelines are used by the disability reviewer who has to find an exact vocational profile in the grid for you so that it can be determined if you are disabled or not.
The grid is composed of tables which are based on each physical RFC level which are sedentary work, light work, medium work, and heavy work.
For example, if your RFC determines you can take part in sedentary work but you are 50 years or more and failed to graduate from high school, and you have only participated in unskilled work, you will be considered disabled, via a medical-vocational allowance. However, if you are at least 45 years old with the same background, you will not be considered disabled.
Typically, if you are aged 50 years or over, you have a higher chance of being awarded a medical vocational allowance, but if you are a younger person, it may not be so easy to be granted benefits under the MVA.
If your factors don't exactly match the criteria of a rule for example, if your RFC determines you can do more than sedentary work but not the full range of lighter work the claims examiner will use the medical vocational guidelines as a reference for determining if you are disabled or not.
If you used to do heavy work but now you are set at a light work RFC level the SSA will decide if you are able to "adjust" to this lighter work, by assessing your RFC along with other vocational factors like your age, education, and work experience.
If the SSA finds that you have the capability to do a lighter job, you will not be considered disabled. However, if the SSA determines that your RFC and additional vocational factors stops you from being able to learn the skills or adjust to other lighter work such as being an older age you are considered disabled and you will be awarded disability benefits.
Using the SSA Blue Book lists to find your disability match isn’t easy, as often there is no precise listing for every medical condition that can lead to a disability which may entitle you to disability benefits. If you are disabled but do not meet the Blue Book listing, you should see if you can qualify with a medical vocational allowance.
This gives you a better chance of being granted disability benefits, particularly if you are in the older age bracket. The fact that the medical vocational allowance combines a number of factors related to your position makes it easier to qualify for disability benefits than just relying on the SSA’s Blue Book.