The Social Security Administration (SSA) attempts to establish eligibility for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits under a listed impairment or medical condition. Potentially disabling conditions are listed in the SSA’s Blue Book, or manual for evaluating medical conditions under SSA guidelines. If your medical condition doesn’t meet the exact requirements as they are listed in the Blue Book, the SSA is still required to take a closer look at your application and the documentation it contains.
Interestingly, the majority of people approved for SSD benefits don’t match a listed Blue Book impairment perfectly. In fact, most people don’t come anywhere close to suffering from the severe symptoms listed in the Blue Book. This is precisely where a medical vocational allowance enters the picture.
So, what is a medical vocational allowance? A medical vocational allowance is something that revolves around whether or not you are able to make a living as a result of your condition and/or impairment. As such, a medical vocational allowance is an additional way through which disability benefits applicants could convey to the SSA that they are unable to maintain gainful employment, and thereby unable to make a living, as a result of their condition(s), experience, age, and education, etc.—even though their condition(s) was not specifically listed in the Blue Book.
Given that the SSA is ultimately trying to determine how your disability impairs your ability to perform everyday activities as well as function on a job, a medical vocational allowance involves an in-depth evaluation of your medical records as well as your maximum working capabilities. To the SSA, your working capabilities pretty much revolve around (1) whether you are able to work your past job(s), and (2) whether you are able to do any other type of job or work with your condition.
While this evaluation of medical documentation and working capabilities to determine if the claimant's specific symptoms and other medical details meet the general impairment requirements for receiving disability benefits is facilitated by the SSA, it is actually an evaluation that is performed independently by a medical consultant.
During this evaluation, the medical consultant will also establish a "residual functional capacity" (RFC) rating for you. This will tell the SSA the type of work (sedentary, light, etc) you’re capable of performing with the limitations your medical condition places on you. But, your RFC is only a portion of what the SSA considers to determine your eligibility for benefits. Your age, work experience, education, job skills and other details are also consider when determining if you are unable to find or maintain gainful employment and therefore qualified for SSD.
It is important to note that functional limitations noted in your medical records play a big role in determining your claim and can establish a medical vocational allowance for SSD eligibility purposes. This is the reason that thorough and detailed medical records are so crucial to a successful SSD claim.
If the SSA determines you’re unable to maintain gainful employment as a result of your medical condition, then you may be approved for SSD benefits under a medical vocational allowance.
So, in short, if your medical condition causes severe enough impairment to prevent you from maintaining gainful employment but does not meet the listing of any of the conditions that appear in the SSA’s Blue Book, you may still be found eligible for disability benefits under a “medical vocational allowance”.