Today, I’d like to delve into a crucial aspect of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims: the “Grid Rules,” formally known as the “Medical-Vocational Guidelines.” These may be found in Appendix 2 to Subpart P of Part 404 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
Note: They are called “Grid” Rules, because the Rule, Age, Education, Previous Work Experience, and ultimate Decision columns are laid out in a spreadsheet-like table, or “grid”. You can see such “grids” when you click the link above.
While I’ve touched on this topic previously, it’s worth emphasizing its importance again – particularly for individuals over 50 years old with physical limitations.
Origin and Purpose
The Social Security Administration (SSA) designed these guidelines to streamline the decision-making process on disability benefits. The grid rules evaluate four key factors: age, education level, work history, and Residual Functional Capacity (RFC).
If you’re 50 or older, the grid rules could be particularly beneficial to your case. The SSA considers individuals around this age to be approaching “advanced age,” making it somewhat easier to qualify for disability benefits.
The SSA categorizes education levels as follows:
- Marginal to none
- High school graduate or higher (without direct entry into skilled work)
- High school graduate or higher (with direct entry into skilled work)
The reality is that these guidelines are more favorable to those with limited educational backgrounds.
The SSA classifies jobs as unskilled, semi-skilled, and skilled. The grid rules are particularly relevant for individuals with unskilled labor experience or a lack of transferable skills.
Residual Functional Capacity
If your RFC indicates you can perform heavy or very heavy work, the SSA generally will not apply the grid rules. However, if your RFC suggests you can only undertake sedentary work, the grid rules may be applicable.
I once represented a client nearing retirement age with only an 11th-grade education. His work history was negligible; he’d held one job for 3-4 months in the past 15 years. Since his earnings didn’t qualify as “substantial gainful activity,” he had no relevant work history. Nevertheless, based on his age, limited education, and insufficient work experience, he qualified for disability benefits under the grid rules at a “medium” RFC level, defined as:
- Standing and walking for 6 out of 8 hours daily
- Frequently lifting 25 pounds
- Occasionally lifting 50 pounds
During the hearing, even the Administrative Law Judge was unaware that a person could qualify as “disabled” under these criteria. After reviewing the grid rules, however, the judge approved the claim.
The grid rules can offer a more straightforward path to SSDI benefits. They can expedite the process for both you and your attorney. If you need assistance establishing that you meet these guidelines, we’re here to help. Contact Ortiz Law Firm at (888) 321-8131 to schedule your free case evaluation.