What are SSA Grid Rules? Learn how social security uses Medical Vocational Guidelines called Grid Rules to determine your disability benefits.
At age 50 and older, getting approved for Social Security Disability benefits is easier.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes it’s harder for someone over 50 to obtain a job than a younger individual.
For this reason, the Social Security Administration created Grid Rules.
Learn what SSA Grid Rules are and how Grids help get the disability benefits you deserve.
What are SSA Grid Rules?
SSA Grid Rules (Medical Vocational Guidelines) is a set of factors the Social Security Administration uses to award people over 50 disability benefits.
The SSA uses the Grids at step five of the sequential evaluation process to determine if you are disabled.
Why Do SSA Grid Rules Matter?
SSA Grid rules matter because they help determine your Social Security Disability benefits eligibility.
Knowing the Grids is important if you have physical limitations that prevent you from working.
These special Social Security Disability rules will help win your claim.
What Factors Do SSA Grids Consider?
The SSA Grid Rules use four factors to determine your benefits eligibility:
- Age grouping
- Highest level of education
- Past work experience
- Residual functional capacity (RFC)
Let’s look at each vocational factor to learn how they may affect your claim.
1. Your Age Group
If you are age 50 or older and unable to work, the Grid Rules may apply to your claim.
Older individuals are more likely to “grid out” and be eligible for Social Security benefits. This is because it’s harder for an older worker to learn a new job skill or transition into a new workplace.
The SSA divides claimants into the following age groups:
- 18-49 Years Old – Younger Individual
- 50-54 Years Old – Closely Approaching Advanced Age
- 55-59 Years Old – Advanced Age
- 60 and Older – Closely Approaching Retirement Age
2. Your Education Level
The lower your education level, the more likely you will get approved for disability benefits. This is because it’s harder for people with little education to find jobs they are qualified to do.
In contrast, individuals with more education have a greater chance of finding a job. Therefore the chances of qualifying for benefits are lower.
The SSA divides claimants into the following education levels:
- Illiterate – These people can not read or write in any language. (little or no formal schooling)
- Marginal Education – These people have the basic ability to read, write, reason, and do mathematics. (6th grade level or less)
- Limited Education – These people have a higher ability to read, write, reason, and do mathematics. (7th to 11th grade level)
- High School Education and Above – These people have a high ability to read, write, reason, and do mathematics. (12th grade level, GED, or degree)
3. Your Past Work Experience
The SSA will review your work experience, skill level, and work performed in the past 15 years.
Individuals with a history of unskilled work are more likely to qualify for disability disabled under the grids.
For example, a factory worker with repetitive movements is unskilled work. However, an accountant who completed various certification courses is considered skilled labor.
The SSA divides claimants into the following transferable skill categories:
- Skilled Work – Requires specific training, degrees, or certificates.
- Semi-Skilled Work – Requires some training with education preferred but not required.
- Unskilled Work – Requires little or no training and judgment to do simple duties.
4. Your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC)
Residual Functional Capacity is the maximum amount of work you can perform, despite physical or mental limitations.
The SSA will look at your medical records and all medical evidence to determine RFC.
For example, the SSA will evaluate various physical and mental limitations, like the ability to:
- See, hear, breathe, talk, etc.
- Sit, stand, walk, lift, bend, carry, etc.
- Understand, concentrate, remember, interact with others, etc.
The SSA divides claimants into five RFC categories:
- Sedentary Work – Mostly sitting, with occasional standing and walking. No lifting of anything heavier than 10 pounds.
- Light Work – Frequent sitting, walking, standing, pushing, and pulling. No lifting of anything heavier than 25 pounds.
- Medium Work – Frequent sitting, walking, standing, pushing, and pulling. No lifting of anything heavier than 50 pounds.
- Heavy Work – Frequent sitting, walking, standing, pushing, and pulling. No lifting of anything heavier than 100 pounds.
- Very Heavy Work – Frequent sitting, walking, standing, pushing, and pulling. Can lift anything heavier than 100 pounds.
In most situations, the SAA will deny your benefits if you can perform “heavy work” or “very heavy work.” This is because you are likely capable of working at all exertion levels.
How Social Security Uses Grid Rule Tables
The SSA uses the Grid Rule Tables when evaluating your eligibility for disability benefits.
The SSA determines your residual functional capacity, age group, education level, and work experience. Then they use Grid Tables to decide on your eligibility for benefits.
To see how the SSA would apply grids to your case, follow these steps:
- Visit the SAA website to view the current Grid Rule Tables.
- Find the table that matches your RFC level.
- Find the row that lists your age group, educational level, and past work experience.
- Look at the final column to see how the SSA will decide based on these factors.
Are you Unable to Work Due to a Medical Condition? Call Us!
If you cannot work because of a medical condition or want to learn more about Grid Rules, call Evans Disability at (855) 503-0101.
Our knowledgeable and experienced attorneys will assist you with every step. Don’t hesitate, schedule your free consultation and get the disability benefits you deserve.
SSA Grid Rules FAQ
Frequently asked questions about Social Security Grid Rules.
What Is the SSA Worn Out Worker Rule?
Social Security has a specific program for workers with 35 plus years of hard labor experience called the “Worn Out Worker Rule.”
The Worn Out Worker Rule helps workers get disability benefits who do not qualify under a Grid Rule.
To qualify, the disability claimant must meet these factors:
- Unable to perform previous job duties.
- Have a low education level, defined as a “marginal education.”
- Worked 35 years or more in arduous unskilled physical labor positions.
What Is the Sequential Evaluation Process?
The sequential evaluation process is a series of five steps to determine whether or not an individual is disabled.
This process helps the SSA standardize the review process and determine the severity of your case.
The process stops if a person is found disabled or not at a step. The SSA will make a decision on your case or move to the next step.
The simplified evaluation steps are as follows:
- Are You Engaging in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)?
- Is Your Physical And/or Mental Condition Severe?
- Does Your Medical Condition Meet or Equal a Listing?
- Are You Able to Return to Your Past Relevant Work?
- Can You Adjust to Other Work?
What Is Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)?
Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) is the monthly salary limit the Social Security Administration uses to qualify individuals for disability benefits. The SSA updates the SGA amount annually.
For example, the monthly salary cutoff is $2,260 in 2022. If you earn more than $2,260 gross income per month, the SSA Social Security will determine you as engaging in SGA.
A person engaging in SGA may not be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI benefits) benefits. SGA does not apply to Supplemental Security Income (SSI benefits).