How do transferable skills impact social security?

Did you know that the skills you acquired in your past work experience may have an effect on your disability claim? In order to be found disabled, you have to prove that you cannot return to your previous work AND any other type of work. Your ability to do other jobs is directly related to the skills you acquired in your previous job(s).

Some skills easily transfer into other professions, whereas many do not. If your work experience is considered to be unskilled or if you do not have a work history, you are said to have no transferable skills. This means that you do not have skills that could readily be transferred to another profession. The more transferrable skills that you have, the more jobs you will have available to you.

When trying to identify whether or not your job skills will be transferable, you must take into consideration how you performed your job. You may share the same job title as many others, however; your job duties may differ greatly. You may have more or less skills than others with the same job title as your own.

To help you get an idea of the type of skill level your work experience is said to have, you can research the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT). The DOT outlines thousands of various jobs from receptionists to public transportation. The DOT will describe any specific educational requirements to perform the job, the exertional level of the job (sedentary, light, medium etc.) and the skill level.

The skill level in the DOT is referred to as the SVP, or Specific Vocational Preparation. The SVP is a rating scale and the higher you fall on the scale, the higher the skill level is said to be. The table below will demonstrate.


1 or 2

3 or 4

5 to 9






Unskilled generally refers to a job that can be learned in a short period of time, typically less than 30 days and you do not have to use a considerable amount of judgment. Semi-skilled jobs require more judgment and alertness and will take longer to learn than an unskilled job. Skilled jobs generally take 6 months to many years in order to be proficient. Skilled jobs generally require interactions with others, higher complexity, educational requirements, etc.

An individual with an SVP of 1 or 2 is said not to have transferable skills. The regulations also state that you cannot move upward when identifying jobs that you could perform. In other words, if your experience falls as a 3, you cannot be expected to perform jobs with an SVP of 8. This is regardless of the number of jobs with an SVP of 8 available in the economy. It more likely to transfer into another profession with an SVP equal to your experience or a lesser degree.

Other jobs that are said to provide no transferable skills are those that fall into very unique, isolated professions. The transferability of skills is most probable when the same materials, machines, processes, etc. are used in other industries.

Recognizing that your acquired skills has an effect on your disability claim will help you better understand the decisions made by the Administration. If you have additional questions regarding transferable skills, please contact one of our representatives at 1-877-526-3457.

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Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law

Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law