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Job skills, as defined by the Social Security Administration (SSA), refer to the ability, knowledge, and expertise a person requires to perform specific tasks or duties on the job. Assessing your job skills helps the SSA make a decision about your ability to work. If you have job skills, then it is likely those skills can transfer to other jobs. Even if you can’t do your old job. That is why jobs skills are important to your SSD case.

Let’s look at an example to show you why job skills are important. Pretend you are the manager at McDonalds. A manager has many skills. For example, as a manager you hire and train staff. Additionally, you might handle the restaurant budget and oversee the kitchen staff. You might also monitor and order inventory and communicate with vendors. Finally, you might solve customer complaints. Being a manager requires communication and organization skills. It also requires knowledge of the store operations and budget. Also, it puts you in charge of other workers.

When you are a “manager,” you have more skills than a “fast food worker.” You may have learned those skills from going to school, from training, or from prior work experience. Once you are a manager at McDonalds, those same skills can transfer to another manager job at a different store. Even one that doesn’t sell fast food.


Because you have skills from your past job as a manager at McDonalds, the SSA states that you can use those skills at another job. So, let’s pretend that you hurt your back while you were working at McDonalds. You had to have a back operation and your doctor told you that you can’t lift over 15 pounds and you can’t stand on your feet all day long. Therefore, you can no longer work at McDonalds due to those restrictions.

But, the SSA will state that you can do a seated job instead. Seated jobs only require you to lift 10 pounds and you sit in the chair for six hours out of an eight hour day. Are there manager jobs where you sit in a chair? Sure there are. Perhaps you can get a job as a manager at a bank. You could be a manager at a car dealership or a hotel chain. You get the idea.

As soon as you write down on your Work History Report that you were a manager, the SSA is going to assume you have all the skills of a manager. Therefore, they will say you can do other managerial jobs. The SSA loves it when you claim to be a manager, because that gives you many skills that transfer to other jobs.


When filing for SSDI and SSI benefits, you will need to fill out Work History forms. People treat these forms like they are filling out a form for a job interview. They often inflate their ability and skills on the forms. They will write down their “title” instead of the actual name of their job.

For example, many people who file for benefits claim to be a “manager” on their Work History Report, even though they really weren’t a manager. Let’s go back to our McDonalds scenario. Most people who work there are “fast food workers.” They are not the “manager.” Opening the store doors and locking them at night does not make you a “manager.” If you didn’t hire and fire, order the food, and set the schedule, then you are not the manager.

If you write down that you were the manager, then it is easy for the SSA to find you can use your manager skills in a different job. Your SSD case is lost or won by what you write down on your Work History report. Claiming skills you don’t really have is one of the worst mistakes you can make. Don’t try to make yourself look better by writing something that isn’t accurate.


There are three types of job skills that the SSA recognizes:  unskilled work, semi-skilled work, and skilled work. All jobs fall into these three categories.

If a job is unskilled, then it does not require you to have an education to do the job. It also means that most people could learn how to do the job in under 30 days. If a job requires skills, then it takes longer to learn to do the job. You can learn more about skills by reading Social Security Ruling (SSR) 83-10.  When there is a history of skilled or semi-skilled work, the SSA will consider skills that can be used in other jobs. If you can use your skills in another job setting, then your skills transfer to other jobs.

In order for work to be your past relevant work, your must have worked and trained on the job for the amount of time required to learn the skills to do the job.

job skills


Unskilled work refers to jobs that do not require special training or education to perform the job. These jobs usually involve tasks that can be learned quickly, often while training on the job. Unskilled work involves routine duties that do not require a high level of special knowledge.

Examples of unskilled jobs might include tasks like basic data entry, manual labor in a factory, or general cleaning and janitor work. It is important to note that while unskilled work may not require formal training, it still plays an important role. It can also be an essential entry point for younger people who are starting their first job.

In unskilled work there is little or no judgment required to do the simple duties. All duties can be learned on the job. Also, the job duties can be learned in a short period of time, usually less than 30 days. There is also very little specific preparation and judgment needed to do the job. Also, there are no work skills gained from doing unskilled work. Therefore, if your past work is unskilled, the SSA can’t claim you have job skills that transfer to other work. Obviously, there are no job skills learned in unskilled work.


Semi-skilled work refers to jobs that require some basic training or experience, but not to the extent of advanced skills. These jobs often involve tasks that can be learned in a short period of time, such as 3 to 6 months. While semi-skilled workers may not be experts, they are adept in performing their duties.

Examples of semi-skilled jobs might include operating a machine, assembly work, or doing routine tasks. Semi-skilled workers are able to carry out their job duties without help from a supervisor. But, their job may not require a high level of special knowledge. Likewise, they may not need special training.

Semi-skilled work requires some skills. But it does not require doing more complex work duties. Often,
coordination and use of the hands is necessary to do the work. For example, you might need to move your hands and feet quickly while doing repetitive tasks. Also, the jobs require the ability to be alert and pay close attention to machines. For example, you may need to inspect, test or look for problems. You may also need to guard equipment, property, or people against loss, damage or injury.


Skilled work refers to jobs that require training or education in a particular field. People in skilled jobs have a higher level of knowledge, usually through formal education or on the job training. People with skills possess a deep understanding of their profession. They are often capable of handling complex tasks and making difficult decisions.

Examples of skilled jobs include professions like doctors, engineers, and computer programmers. These roles  involve more special duties that demand a higher level of knowledge compared to unskilled work. Skilled workers are valued for their ability to perform tasks that require a certain set of skills. For example, a lawyer must graduate from college and then go to law school for three years. Even then, they require many years of on the job training to learn the skills to do their job.

Skilled work requires the worker to use judgment on the job. For example, the worker may need to make precise measurements, reading blueprints, or have special knowledge about rules or machines. A skilled worker might have to deal with people, facts or figures. Additionally, they may need to use abstract ideas, follow complex instructions, or have years of specific work experience.


The SSA recognizes that it takes a certain amount of time to learn jobs skills at work. They have put together a list that shows how much time it takes to learn skills. Below you will find the table which outlines the amount of time it takes to acquire job skills in unskilled, semi-skilled, and skilled work.

SVP by Skill Level

SVP       SKILL                           TIME
1 Unskilled Short demonstration only.
2 Unskilled Anything beyond short demonstration up to and including 1 month.
3 Semi-Skilled Over 1 month up to and including 3 months.
4 Semi-Skilled Over 3 months up to and including 6 months.
5 Skilled Over 6 months up to and including 1 year.
6 Skilled Over 1 year up to and including 2 years.
7 Skilled Over 2 years up to and including 4 years.
8 Skilled Over 4 years up to and including 10 years.
9 Skilled Over 10 years.


The U.S. Department of Labor publishes the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT). The DOT is a reference guide that provides detailed information about various jobs in the United States. It contains a description of every job and the skills an employee must have to do the job. It also contains the physical demands of the job and other relevant job information. Vocational counselors and other professionals use the DOT to place people in jobs.

Each entry in the DOT includes three items, First, it contains a job title. Second, there is a brief description of the tasks and duties of the job. Third, there is a numerical code to refer to the job. It is a valuable tool to assess the ability of individuals to be part of the workplace, especially for purposes of SSA decisions. The SSA uses the information in the DOT to determine if you have job skills and if those skills transfer to other work.

It is worth noting that the Occupational Information Network (ONET) is beginning to take the place of the DOT. ONET offers a wider range of data on jobs and is now the primary resource for job information in the United States. The SSA has not started to use ONET in hearings.


For people with skilled or highly skilled work backgrounds, winning SSD benefits can become more complicated. If a judge believes that you possess transferable job skills from your past work, then she will find that you can do other jobs using your skills.

However, some skills cannot be used to some degree in any other jobs. For example, being a coal miner is a highly skilled job. But, those specific skills are only used in a mine or a for a job in a mine setting. Coal miners do not have the skills, for example, to become a secretary. To be useful in the job market, skills need to transfer to other jobs. If they don’t transfer, then that fact might prove you cannot work.

An understanding of job skills is one of the best reasons to hire an SSD attorney with experience. Your attorney should have in depth knowledge of the DOT and understand whether or not you have job skills. Next, your attorney should know whether or not your job skills can transfer to other jobs.


RFC is one of the most important concepts in your Social Security case. The reason it is so important is your RFC can make the difference between winning or losing your SSD and SSI benefits. If you can prove that your RFC prevents you from working, then you win benefits. So, what is your RFC?

The RFC is the definition of what you can physically do in a work setting, after taking into account all of your medical conditions and your symptoms.

Your RFC includes both your physical and mental limits. In terms of physical limits, the SSA tries to define your ability to sit, stand, walk, and lift, during the course of an 8 hour workday. Likewise, the SSA will include your ability to carry, pull, and push. Find out more here about how the SSA defines work.


The mental RFC is the same thing as the physical RFC, except it is about your mental skills. For example, your mental RFC includes how many minutes you can concentrate at one time. It also includes how often during a normal day you have memory problems.

Likewise, your ability to focus on work tasks and remember instructions is important. Additionally, the SSA will also consider your ability to deal with stress. Your RFC also includes your ability to deal with the public, other workers and your boss. Skilled work requires the ability to focus and finish complex tasks. Unskilled work requires less focus. Find out more here about mental function you need to do unskilled work.


At some point during a hearing, the judge will go over all of you past work. Sometimes, the judge will use the help of a VE to define your past work. The VE will use the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) codes for each job.  Your attorney must understand the DOT code in order to know if you have transferable skills.

The DOT assigns a nine digit code to a large number of jobs found in the national economy. The DOT is out of date. It was last revised in the early 1990s. Many of the jobs in the DOT are no longer in existence. Likewise, workers no longer perform the jobs as the DOT describes them. Additionally, there is no way the DOT could contain every single job in the national economy. However, the SSA still uses the DOT in hearings, along with VE testimony, to update job information.

Your attorney must know all of this information in order to questions the VE. Most cases are won or lost based upon the VE testimony. If you hire an attorney with no Social Security legal experience, they will not understand how to help you during this portion of your SSA hearing.


Proving your RFC is an important element in your Social Security case. To win your SSD benefits, you can prove that you meet or equal a listing. Learn more about what it takes to meet an SSA listing. If you do not meet or equal a listing, then you can try to win your case with the VE. There are many complex Social Security laws. And, they all apply to each case.

However, we know your case is different than anyone else’s case. You may have cancer or a spinal condition. Or, you may have a rare disease. Even if you don’t have a rare disease, your symptoms are stopping you from working. We know it is difficult. No one wants to face the SSA alone. Especially when you are not feeling your best and you don’t have a job. That is why you should hire a law firm with the legal experience to win your benefits.


If you need help winning your SSD and SSI benefits, then you have found the right law firm. You can learn more about the attorneys at our law firm on our About Us page.

For example, you may want to know that Dianna Cannon has been winning SSD cases for over thirty years. Additionally, Brett Bunkall and Andria Summers have also won thousands of SSDI and SSI cases.

In the past 30 years, we have won over 20,000 SSDI and SSI cases for our clients. Our experts can help you file for SSI benefits using the SSA’s website. However, we will need your help to apply for SSI benefits. Why? Because only you know your personal financial information. SSI benefits require you to have minimal assets and monthly income.

Likewise, if you need an appeal, then we can help you do that too. There are also many forms that will need to fill out. Don’t worry. If you have questions about these forms, then we will answer them. You can learn more about SSA’s appeal forms. Call us today for help winning your SSD and SSI benefits.


You do not have to obtain SSD benefits on your own. We can help file your SSD application. Also, we can help you through each stage of the five step Social Security review process.

When you leave that up to us, you can focus on your health. Our attorneys and staff can:

If you file your SSD application online at Social Security’s website, then you have 6 months to complete the application. It is best to complete the application quickly. You don’t want to come close to the 6 month time limit.


Before the hearing, we review your physical and mental conditions. That way you can explain how you are not able to complete an 8 hour workday because of your severe medical conditions. Even though every judge is different, all of the questions revolve around whether you can work. We will also review your past work and your job skills. We will be ready to argue that your job skills do not transfer to other work.

Prepare yourself to answer questions about your physical and mental health. If you hire us to represent you, then we will prepare you to testify. Additionally, we will review your answers with you. This will help you know that you are ready for your hearing.

It is important for you to understand the judge’s questions. You need to be able to explain your physical and mental conditions. Our job is to work with you so that you can explain your symptoms to the judge. You have to prove why you can’t work.  We help you do that. That is why we say we are working as a team.

It takes a team effort to get through this process. Now is the time to ask for help. Don’t go it alone. Ask for help. We offer a free review of your case. Even if we review your case, there is no pressure to become our client. You can call and ask questions. Contact us today. We will help you prove to the SSA that you cannot use your job skills to work. Call us for help to win your SSD benefits.

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