Expedited Vocational Assessment Under the Sequential Evaluation Process

The SSA has decided to act less like a computer and more like human beings with discretionary logic. This is usually a good thing and causes the system to seem less bureaucratic. The new ruling allows the SSA to determine whether the claimant can ADJUST TO OTHER WORK EXISTING IN THE NATIONAL ECONOMY. An RFC is crucial in this assessment.

When the SSA has insufficient information about a claimant’s past relevant work history adjudicators now have the discretion to proceed to the fifth step of the sequential evaluation process for assessing disability.

If an adjudicator finds at step 5 that a claimant may be unable to adjust to other work existing in the national economy, the adjudicator will return to the fourth step to develop the claimant’s work history and make a finding about whether the claimant can perform his or her past relevant work.

The goal is to promote administrative efficiency and help make more timely disability determinations and decisions.

Medical-vocational profiles showing an inability to make an adjustment to other work.

However, the SSA says they are not adopting the suggestion to require adjudicators to state that they considered medical-vocational profiles in this situation because they say they can address the concern in ways that will be more effective.

The option to proceed to step five using the expedited process:

With the expedited process whether claimants may be disabled will be based on the special medical-vocational profiles, the Medical-Vocational Guidelines (Guidelines), or an inability to meet the mental demands of unskilled work.

If any of these rules would indicate that the claimant may be disabled or if the adjudicator has any doubt whether the claimant can perform other work existing in significant numbers in the economy, the adjudicator must return to step 4 to further develop the claimant’s vocational information and determine whether the claimant can perform his or her past relevant work.

If there is insufficient evidence about a claimant’s past relevant work in the record to determine whether a special medical-vocational profile applies, the adjudicator must return to step 4 to further develop the vocational evidence because a special medical- vocational profile may apply.

Situations Appropriate to Deny Claim without Consideration of Past Work History

There are a number of situations in which it would be appropriate to deny a claim without considering a claimant’s past work history.

For example, if a claimant is 44 years old with a high school education and has the RFC to perform a full range of sedentary work, Rules 201.27, 201.28, and 201.29 of the Medical-Vocational Guidelines (Guidelines) direct that this claimant be found not disabled, regardless of the skill level of his or her past relevant work or the transferability of those skills.

Adjudicators will only find that a claimant is not disabled without returning to step 4 when they can find at step 5 that a claimant is not disabled “based solely on age, education, and RFC, regardless of the claimant’s skill level and transferability of those skills.”

In this example, none of the special profiles would potentially apply, and we assume that the claimant can meet the mental demands of unskilled work. (*10 See Appendix 2 to Subpart P of Part 404–Medical-Vocational Guidelines. )

SSA determines a claimant’s RFC before step 4, and does not assess RFC in the context of a claimant’s past work history.

Rather, we determine a claimant’s RFC based on his or her ability to meet the “physical, mental, sensory, and other requirements of work” on a “regular and continuous basis.”

For example, the physical demands of work include activities such as sitting, standing, and walking. RFC is not assessed in the context of a claimant’s past work history; therefore, the proposed expedited process regardless of past work history development can be used.

See: 20 CFR 404.1520(a)(4) and 416.920(a)(4).
20 CFR 404.1545(a)(4) and 416.945(a)(4).
20 CFR 404.1545(b) and (c) and 416.945(b) and (c).
See 20 CFR 404.1545(b) and 416.945(b).

When is Evidence Insufficient

The SSA will consider evidence to be insufficient when a claimant does not provide enough information about each of his or her jobs within the relevant 15-year period on Form SSA-3368, Disability Report-Adult, (or the Internet version of this form) and, when necessary, Form SSA-3369, Work History Report, to make a finding at step 4.

The concept of “insufficient evidence” in this context is that of a claimant’s ability to do his or her past work.

Link Here: Form SSA-3369

Vocational Assessment Amendment

2. Amend [Section] 404.1505 by revising the sixth sentence of paragraph (a) to read as follows:

[Section] 404.1505 Basic definition of disability.

(a) * * * If we find that you cannot do your past relevant work, we will use the same residual functional capacity assessment and your vocational factors of age, education, and work experience to determine if you can do other work. (See [Section] 404.1520(h) for an exception to this rule.) * * *

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3. Amend [Section] 404.1520 by adding a new second sentence to paragraph (a)(4), by revising the last sentence of paragraph (a)(4)(iv), the last sentence of paragraph (a)(4)(v), the second sentence of paragraph (f), and by adding a new paragraph (h), to read as follows:

[Section] 404.1520 Evaluation of disability in general.

(a) * * *

(4) * * * See paragraph (h) of this section for an exception to this rule. * * *

(iv) * * * See paragraphs (f) and (h) of this section and [Section] 404.1560(b).

(v) * * * See paragraphs (g) and (h) of this section and [Section] 404.1560(c).

* * * * *

(f) * * * See paragraph (h) of this section and [Section] 404.1560(b). * * *

* * * * *

(h) Expedited process. If we do not find you disabled at the third step, and we do not have sufficient evidence about your past relevant work to make a finding at the fourth step, we may proceed to the fifth step of the sequential evaluation process. If we find that you can adjust to other work based solely on your age, education, and the same residual functional capacity assessment we made under paragraph (e) of this section, we will find that you are not disabled and will not make a finding about whether you can do your past relevant work at the fourth step. If we find that you may be unable to adjust to other work or if [Section] 404.1562 may apply, we will assess your claim at the fourth step and make a finding about whether you can perform your past relevant work. See paragraph (g) of this section and [Section] 404.1560(c).

4. In [Section] 404.1527(e)(1)(ii), remove “paragraph (f)(1)(i) of this section” and add in its place “paragraph (e)(1)(i) of this section”.

5. Amend [Section] 404.1545 by revising the first sentence of paragraph (a)(5)(ii) to read as follows:

[Section] 404.1545 Your residual functional capacity.

(a) * * *

(5) * * *

(ii) If we find that you cannot do your past relevant work, you do not have any past relevant work, or if we use the procedures in [Section] 404.1520(h) and [Section] 404.1562 does not apply, we will use the same assessment of your residual functional capacity at step five of the sequential evaluation process to decide if you can adjust to any other work that exists in the national economy. * * *

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6. Amend [Section] 404.1560 by adding a second sentence to paragraph (b) and revising the first two sentences of paragraph (c)(1) to read as follows:

[Section] 404.1560 When we will consider your vocational background.

* * * * *

(b) * * * See [Section] 404.1520(h) for an exception to this rule.

* * * * *

(c) Other work. (1) If we find that your residual functional capacity does not enable you to do any of your past relevant work or if we use the procedures in [Section] 404.1520(h), we will use the same residual functional capacity assessment when we decide if you can adjust to any other work. We will look at your ability to adjust to other work by considering your residual functional capacity and the vocational factors of age, education, and work experience, as appropriate in your case. (See [Section] 404.1520(h) for an exception to this rule.) * * *

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7. Amend [Section] 404.1565 by revising the second sentence of paragraph (b) to read as follows:

[Section] 404.1565 Your work experience as a vocational factor.

* * * * *

(b) * * * If you cannot give us all of the information we need, we may try, with your permission, to get it from your employer or other person who knows about your work, such as a member of your family or a co-worker. * * *

8. Amend [Section] 404.1569 by revising the third sentence to read as follows:

[Section] 404.1569 Listing of Medical-Vocational Guidelines in appendix 2.

* * * We apply these rules in cases where a person is not doing substantial gainful activity and is prevented by a severe medically determinable

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impairment from doing vocationally relevant past work. (See [Section] 404.1520(h) for an exception to this rule.) * * *

9. Amend [Section] 404.1594 by revising paragraph (f)(8) and adding a new paragraph (f)(9) to read as follows:

[Section] 404.1594 How we will determine whether your disability continues or ends.

* * * * *

(f) * * *

(8) If you are not able to do work you have done in the past, we will consider whether you can do other work given the residual functional capacity assessment made under paragraph (f)(7) of this section and your age, education, and past work experience (See paragraph (f)(9) of this section for an exception to this rule). If you can, we will find that your disability has ended. If you cannot, we will find that your disability continues.

(9) We may proceed to the final step, described in paragraph (f)(8) of this section, if the evidence in your file about your past relevant work is not sufficient for us to make a finding under paragraph (f)(7) of this section about whether you can perform your past relevant work. If we find that you can adjust to other work based solely on your age, education, and residual functional capacity, we will find that you are no longer disabled, and we will not make a finding about whether you can do your past relevant work under paragraph (f)(7) of this section. If we find that you may be unable to adjust to other work or if [Section] 404.1562 may apply, we will assess your claim under paragraph (f)(7) of this section and make a finding about whether you can perform your past relevant work.

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