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Social Security Disability and SVP Defined

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Specific Vocational Preparation (SVP) is used to define the amount of time required for a typical employee to learn the techniques, acquire the information, and develop the facility needed for average performance in a job. SVP can be acquired in school, the military or at the work place.

SVP Definition

SVP is essentially a rating system used as a guideline to help a disability decisionmaker determine how long it would take to achieve average performance in a job. This information is relevant because it is used to determine whether or not a disability claimant’s past job should count as ‘Past Work Experience’.

If one did not do a job long enough to learn it, then the job should not count as relevant work. The higher the SVP level, the more education required and/or the longer it takes to achieve competency at a particular job. Per the Department of Labor, a 4-year college degree is equal to 2 years of SVP. Each year of graduate school is equal to 1 year of SVP.

SVP LevelTime
1Short demonstration only.
2Anything beyond short demonstration up to and including 1 month.
3Over 1 month up to and including 3 months.
4Over 3 months up to and including 6 months.
5Over 6 months up to and including 1 year.
6Over 1 year up to and including 2 years.
7Over 2 years up to and including 4 years.
8Over 4 years up to and including 10 years.
9Over 10 years.

SVP and Skill Level Rating System

The SVP rating system is also used to determine what skill level a particular job is. A skill is knowledge of a work activity which requires the exercise of significant judgment that goes beyond the carrying out of simple job duties and is acquired through performance of an occupation which is above the unskilled level (requires more than 30 days to learn). There are three skill levels used in a disability determination. Unskilled, Semi-skilled and Skilled.

  1. Unskilled work. Unskilled work is work which needs little or no judgment to do simple duties that can be learned on the job in a short period of time. A person can usually learn to do the job in 30 days, and little specific vocational preparation and judgment are needed. A person does not gain work skills by doing unskilled work. SVP Levels 1 and 2
  2. Semiskilled work. Semiskilled work is work which needs some skills but does not require doing the more complex work duties. SVP Levels 3 and 4
  3. Skilled work. Skilled work requires qualifications in which a person uses judgment to determine the machine and manual operations to be performed in order to obtain the proper form, quality, or quantity of material to be produced. SVP Levels 5 and above


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July 30, 2021

Written by TC Newlin

TC is a disability litigator and one of the managing partners in the Social Security Disability Department at Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin. He has had the pleasure of helping thousands of people obtain the benefits they so desperately need.


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