A less known but powerful way to win Social Security disability benefits is to fit within one of the grid rules. The grid rules only apply to disability claimants age 50 or over, and they only apply if you have physical limitations, but if you meet of these rules, you can win disability benefits even if you have some capacity to work.
These rules are called the “grid” rules because they are arranged in a spreadsheet like grid when printed out. Social Security’s grid rules reflect SSA’s understanding that older, less educated and less skilled workers would have a much more difficult time than a younger workers finding an entry-level job. The grid rules (also called the medical-vocational guidelines) look at four factors:
- your age – must be over age 50
- your education – illiterate, high school grad or less, high school grad or more
- the skill level of your past work – unskilled, semi-skilled or skilled
- your maximum exertional capacity (sedentary, light, or medium)
- the nature of your impairment – must be a physical impairment
You can look at the grid rule tables on the gridrules.net web site.
You will have an easier time fitting into the grid rules:
- the older you are
- the less educated you are
- the less skilled your past work
Here are some examples of how the grid rules work:
Example 1: Tom is a 56 old male with a high school education. His past work was mostly as a janitorial cleaner in a warehouse. Tom has a bad back that limits him to light work. Grid rule 202.06 would result in a finding of disabled.
Example 2: Same as Example 1 except that Tom is age 53. In this case Grid rule 202.13 would result in a finding of not disabled.
Your lawyer may need to help you understand how Social Security would characterize your past work, and how your exertional level will be determined, but if you are over age 50, it is always worthwhile to look at the grid rules to see if they fit.