Medical-Vocational Approvals in Social Security Disability Claim
From Disability ESP Newsletter , V09, Issue 4
By Loretta Crosby, Editor, Claims ESP Disability
As I was reviewing the Disability
Examiners’ Best Practices worksheet and trying to decide my feature article for this month’s newsletter, one
thing kept popping out at me. And that was the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) commandment to its disability
examiners to try to allow/approve a claim for disability at the earliest possible date by qualifying a claimant for
a “med-voc” allowance instead of trying to qualify him/her using the SSA Book of Listings.
Of course, most claimants who get
approved for disability benefits do not really care whether they are approved by “Meeting a Listing” as posted in
the SSA’s Listings of
Impairments book which examiners refer to on most cases, or whether they get benefits through the provision of
a “Med-Voc” allowance, since the money is the same.
Still, it is a fact that most
claims that are approved for benefits are based on what the SSA calls a "medical-vocational" allowance, so I
thought it would be good to explore this topic.
This article will explain what a
“Med-Voc” allowance is as it relates to the disability claims process, and hopefully allow you to put yourself in
the picture to determine if your own disability/impairment might lead to a finding of “disabled” when you plug in
all the factors that are considered in this type of claim allowance.
What is a
Medical-Vocational Claim Decision?
Basically, a medical-vocational
disability claim decision is when an examiner uses the SSA Grid Rules to determine whether a claimant should be
found disabled or not disabled. For older individuals, 50 or over, it is much easier to get approved for benefits
using the Grid Rules.
The gist of the rules is to allow a
claim the moment you know that the applicant meets the medical-vocational allowance criteria based on their
age, education, previous work skill level and current functional limitations (i.e. can a claimant do sedentary,
light, medium or heavy level work given his current medical conditions).
Using the SSA GRID
As an examiner, I often used the
GRID rules to allow claims when the claimant was aged 50 or more. Of course all claims allowances / approvals have
to have medical records as their foundation to show disability, but once you have established that an older
claimant can only do light work – for example -- based on his/her physical impairments, and if the only work that
claimant has ever done required a greater exertional level than that, lets say medium level work, then the examiner
does not have to try to prove that the claimant meets every medical prerequisite as listed under their particular
condition in the SSA Blue Book in order to approve the claim.
In essence, granting a Med-Voc
claim approval is an easier way to allow a claim for that older individual.
Because the rules take into
consideration physical exertional limitations, which should not change if a claimant is alleging a purely mental
disability, the SSA Grid Rules Chart can only be used for claimants whose allegations include a severe
Next...An Example of Using the
Med-Voc GRID Chart to Reach a Claim Decision