Friday, January 4, 2013

Importance of Vocational Evidence

When applying for disability benefits of any types, the claim adjudicator evaluates the vocational evidence as well as the medical evidence. Sometimes the vocational evidence is even more important that the medical evidence. One of my clients, who was awarded Social Security Disability (“SSD”) benefits today, illustrates that point. 

My client is a 60 year old former electrician, which makes him a person “closely approaching retirement age.” Under the Social Security regulations, it is very unlikely that such a person would have transferable skills to “light” work. An electrician is “medium” work, which is more strenuous than “light work.” Thus, if an electrician cannot physically do his past work, and he is 60 years old, it means he most probably has to be found disabled.

The case law holds that when an SSD claimant has a long work history, especially with the same employer, then their complaints are entitled to substantial credibility. Here, my client had a 40 year work history as an electrician. Additionally, he was earning over a $100,000 annually when he stopped working. It does not take an expert to realize that a person who worked at the same job for 40 years must like what he was doing, and even if he didn’t, the fact that he was earning a six figure income certainly explains why he did it for such a long period of time. In other words, the only logical explanation why he stopped working is that he was physically unable to continue doing so.

I did submit very strong medical reports for the claimant. One was from a chiropractor and the other was from a nurse practitioner. Neither is what Social Security calls an “acceptable medical source.” Had the claimant been under 50 years of age, had a poor work history, or earned a small income, then it is highly unlikely that SSD benefits would have been awarded. Here, the vocational evidence was more important than the medical evidence.

No comments: