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Medical-Vocational Approvals in Social Security Disability Claim Processing


From Disability ESP Newsletter , V09, Issue 4 



By Loretta Crosby, Editor, Claims ESP Disability Newsletter


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 Rules

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 physical disability.

Next...An Example of Using the Med-Voc GRID Chart to Reach a Claim Decision

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