What does it mean if the Administrative Law Judge or Vocational Expert mentions “non-competitive work” during a Social Security disability hearing?
“Non-competitive” refers to types of work:
- Competitive work is, well, just regular work; with no set-asides, no accommodations beyond the norm.
- Work that is performed under special circumstances or that is set aside for disabled individuals (for example: work through Goodwill Industries) is typically viewed as “non-competitive.”
Performance of Work Under Special Conditions: One situation under which your SGA-level work may have ended, or may have been reduced to the non-SGA level, as set out above, is “the removal of special conditions related to your impairment that are essential to your further performance of work.” That is, you may have worked under conditions especially arranged to accommodate your impairment or you may have worked through an unusual job opportunity, such as in a sheltered workshop. Special or unusual conditions may be evidenced in many ways. For example, you:
a. May have required and received special assistance from other employees in performing the job; or
b. Were allowed to work irregular hours or take frequent rest periods; or
c. Were provided special equipment or were assigned work especially suited to your impairment; or
d. Were able to work only within a framework of especially arranged circumstances, such as where other persons helped you prepare for or get to and from work; or
e. Were permitted to perform at a lower standard of productivity or efficiency than other employees; or
f. Were granted the opportunity to work, despite your medical condition, because of family relationship, past association with the firm, or other altruistic reason.
Remember that these are examples only and other accommodations may also qualify as work performed under special conditions.
Social Security only considers competitive work in deciding disability cases. If an individual is not able to perform “competitive work” or is “limited to non-competitive employment” or if there is “no competitive work available” that is usually a good sign for a disability case
Keep in mind that a Social Security Administrative Law Judge (the hearing judge) often asks the vocational expert several hypothetical questions with different sets of limitations. There could be “no competitive work” under one set of limitations, and still be work possible under another set of limitations. What I am saying that while hearing “non-competitive work” come up in a hearing is usually a good sign, it does not automatically mean the case will be approved.