There are two primary ways to qualify for disability benefits. The first is by meeting the highly complex and exact medical definitions for various conditions and impairments as listed in the Social Security Administration’s “Blue Book.” The second (and lesser-known) pathway that quite often leads to disability benefits approval is the “medical-vocational allowance” (MVA) approval. While you will still have to meet rigorous guidelines as defined by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to qualify for benefits based on an MVA determination, it is more likely you will be approved through MVA over a Blue Book listing.

Definition of Medical-Vocational Allowance

The general idea of disability benefit programs from the SSA is that you are able to receive financial assistance when you are no longer able to maintain employment with a reasonable income due to a medical condition or impairment. The two main programs offered by the SSA, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) have differing eligibility requirements, but a disability determination is required by both. The “Blue Book” was established to outline the standards for a variety of medical conditions. However, many people do not fit into the specific and rigid definitions and parameters of these conditions, yet they experience a wide array of symptoms associated with one or more conditions, illnesses, and injuries. If your physical or mental conditions do not fit exactly into these listed impairments and conditions and you are unable to earn a liveable income through sustaining work as defined by the SSA, you may qualify for a medical-vocational allowance.

Residual Functional Capacity Status

To meet the standards of MVA you will have to complete various medical examinations to determine your residual functional capacity (RFC). This RFC rating will determine whether or not you qualify for SSI and SSDI benefits, the amount for which you are eligible and which tasks you are still capable of performing. The SSA will review this rating to determine your ability to continue working in your former role and whether or not you are able to perform any other job within the national economy. For those who cannot meet either of these factors, you will be approved for MVA.

It is important that your doctor, nurse practitioner, and/or other treating medical professionals, take detailed notes during any appointment or session. The SSA will base your RFC on the results from exams and notes taken by your medical professionals, as well as their own evaluation and RFC rating. Make sure your doctor notes any and all functional limitations as these are weighed heavily by the SSA.

An RFC assessment will be made based on the SSA’s understanding of your ability, or lack thereof, to complete various work-related tasks in specific work environments, including carrying, lifting, sitting, standing and walking. The assessment results will be broken down into heavy work, medium, light or sedentary. Those with a lower RFC classification are more likely to receive benefits approval.


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The Job Review and RFC Qualifying Factors

One of the first things a medical consultant will examine, based on your RFC rating, is to review the last 15 years of your work experience. These are the jobs for which you are qualified to still do today with no or minimal additional training or education, as long as you are still physically and mentally capable of performing such tasks based on your conditions or impairments. If you can still work in these roles, your application will very likely be denied. At the same time, if you cannot work in these roles, you will carry on to the next step in the qualification process.

During the next step, the SSA will evaluate whether or not you are capable of any type of job based on your RFC rating as a result of your physical and mental impairments and conditions. They will also review your skillset to determine whether or not you might be able to use such skills in roles outside of your previous work experience. As well as in a way that meets your condition and impairment restrictions. Your age and education level will also be taken into consideration.

If, at this stage, the SSA determines that the number of jobs you can perform are not significant or that you are not suitable for any type of work, you will qualify. In these cases, they may deny your application even based on a MVA rating. Remember that all cases will be different, as every person’s individual situation is unique.

MVA Disability Benefits

A medical-vocational allowance approval can provide you with eligibility for a number of disability and financial-related benefits. Two popular benefits programs are the SSI (Supplemental Security Income) and SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) programs. Each of these benefit programs has unique qualifying factors in addition to the acceptance of a medical-vocational allowance. These benefits provide cash allowances each month and can extend eligibility to additional state and private assistance programs.

Improve Your Chances

The SSA does not make being approved for benefits with a medical-vocational allowance easy. However, you can take steps to improve your chances. Ensure all of your information is as accurate as possible regarding past jobs. This will help the SSA determine which jobs, if any, you can still perform based on your RFC and previous work experience. Provide the SSA with medical documents as early as possible in the application process. It can also be helpful to maintain a medical daily journal with your signs, symptoms and work-related issues every day. This will also help save time if they do not have to keep asking you for more information.

Be sure your doctor completes the RFC form on your behalf. And remember, it’s usually better to appeal a rejection rather than to reapply if your application is initially denied, and do so in a timely manner complete with medical updates and new documentation if necessary. While medical-vocational allowances may improve your chances of being approved, it is important to note that individuals who do have certain medically diagnosed diseases, conditions and impairments as listed in the SSA Blue Book may automatically qualify for benefits without having to wait.

You should speak with a Disability Advocate to help learn which application path is right for you. And remember that both physical and mental impairments can qualify for benefits based on the guidelines from the SSA.


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About Citizens Disability, LLC:

Since 2010, Citizens Disability has been America’s premier Social Security Disability institution. Our services include helping people in applying for SSDI benefits, managing the process through Reconsideration, and representing people in person at their Hearing, and if necessary, bringing their case to the Appeals Council. Our mission is to give a voice to the millions of Americans who are disabled and unable to work, helping them receive the Social Security Disability benefits to which they may be entitled. Learn more about us and disability benefits like SSDI & SSI or give us a call at (800) 492-3260.


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