Understanding the Social Security Administration’s Medical-Vocational Guidelines: The Grid Rules

 

Proving you’re disabled under the Social Security Act becomes easier as you get older. This is because the Social Security Administration (SSA) has determined that it is more difficult for individuals to learn new job skills or to transition into a new career once they turn 50 years of age.

 

When evaluating your claim the SSA will determine whether your mental or physical impairment is severe enough to meet one of its medical listings. This is step three of the SSA’s sequential evaluation. If it finds that you do not meet a listing, then the SSA will evaluate your claim under the Medical-Vocational Guidelines, also known as the Social Security Disability Grid Rules.

 

Under the Grid Rules, the SSA may find you disabled based on your education and physical limitations if you are age 50 or olderĀ and cannot do any of your past work – which is defined as jobs you’ve held during the fifteen year prior to the filing of an application for SSD benefits. The Grid Rules are found in the Code of Federal Regulations, Pt. 404, Subpart P. App. 2.

 

This article explains the Disability Grid Rules from the perspective of Social Security Disability attorney Corey Pollard. Keep reading to learn how to use the Grid Rules to your advantage if you have a pending disability claim for SSDI benefits or Supplemental Security Income. Then call us for help with your case.

 

What to Do Before Evaluating Your Case under the Social Security Disability Grid Rules

 

You should determine the following before reviewing the Grid Rules:

 

Your Age

 

Ok, so this isn’t difficult to determine. But we’re referring to your age category under the Social Security Act, not your specific age.

 

If you are under the age of 45 then the Grid Rules do not apply to you.

 

If you are between the ages of 45 and 49, then you may be found disabled under the Grid Rules in some circumstances. But these circumstances are limited. In fact the Grid Rules will apply only if you have a severe physical disability and are illiterate, or if you are 49 years of age, within six months of your 50th birthday, and are unable to perform work at the light level or above. This is because the SSA or the administrative law judge hearing your case at the disability hearing can apply the Grid Rules if you are within six to nine months of an important birthday (50th birthday, 55th birthday, or 60th birthday).

 

So for younger disability claimants – those under the age of 50 – the Medical-Vocational Guidelines are not important unless you are unable to read or write English. Your disability attorney will instead focus on proving that you’re not capable of performing any work at any exertional level.

 

There are four age categories for adults seeking SSDI or SSI benefits:

 

  • Younger: Claimants under 50 years of age. If you are a younger person then the SSA usually does not consider that your age will seriously affect your ability to adjust to other work (i.e. work other than your past work).

 

  • Closely approaching advanced age: Claimants between the ages of 50 and 54. If you are closely approaching advanced age then the SSA will consider that your age along with a severe medical impairment and limited work experience may seriously affect your ability to adjust to other work.

 

  • Advanced age: Claimants between the ages of 55 and 59. If you are of advanced age then the SSA believes that your age significantly affects your ability to adjust to other work.

 

  • Closely approaching retirement age: Claimants who are 60 years of age or older. Similar to individuals of advanced age, the SSA believes that your age will significantly affect your ability to adjust to other work.

 

As you’ll see when reviewing the Grid Rules, there are big differences in what you must prove as you move up the age categories.

 

Your Level of Education

 

The more educated you are, the more difficult it is to get approved for Social Security disability benefits.

 

The SSA uses the term “education” to refer to formal schooling or other vocational treating. A lack of formal schooling, however, will not lead to an automatic finding that you are uneducated or lack reasoning ability, communication skills, and arithmetical ability. Your past work experience, activities of daily living, hobbies, and test results may indicate that you have intellectual abilities.

 

The SSA divides claimants into four education categories for the purpose of the Disability Grid Rules:

 

  • Illiterate: A disability claimant is illiterate if he or she cannot read or write a simple message or grocery list even though he or she can sign his or her own name. Usually we prove illiteracy through testimony on the following: lack of formal schooling; difficulty in school; trouble reading newspapers and books; difficulty reading forms received from the attorney or the SSA; needing help competing paperwork, including job applications; and difficulty completing tests such as the driver’s license examination.

 

  • Marginal education: A person has a marginal education if he or she has the reasoning, arithmetic, and language skills to perform simple, unskilled jobs. Formal schooling at a 6th grade level or less is considered marginal education.

 

  • Limited education: A person is considered to have a limited education if he or she stopped school between the 7th and 11th grade. Such a person is considered capable of performing skilled and semi-skilled work. There is little difference between having a limited education and having a high school education under the Disability Grid Rules.

 

  • High school graduate or more (You have at least a standard high school diploma). A person who graduated high school is considered capable of doing semi-skilled through skilled work.

 

Your Work Experience

 

The Social Security Act defines work experience as “skills and abilities you have acquired through work you have done which show the type of work you may be expected to do.”

 

The SSA will determine what types of jobs you’ve held during the past 15 years, then reference those jobs against the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT). The DOT will tell the SSA whether your work was skilled, semi-skilled, or unskilled. It will also tell the SSA whether you acquired any transferable skills in your past work.

 

For example let’s say you worked in logistics. One part of your job involved lifting heavy items. The other part involved taking orders by phone.

 

The SSA may find that you have transferable skills into a customer service job at a lighter exertional level.

 

Your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC)

 

Based on your testimony, the medical evidence, and other evidence in the disability claims file, the SSA will determine what exertional level of work you’re capable of doing. This is known as your RFC, or the most you can do on a sustained basis in a full-time job.

 

There are five different exertional level:

 

  • Very heavy work
  • Heavy work
  • Medium work
  • Light work
  • Sedentary work

 

The SSA will not find you disabled under the Medical-Vocational Guidelines if you’re capable of heavy or very heavy work.

 

The Social Security Disability Grid Rules

 

The Disability Grid Rules are below.

 

The first step is to determine your RFC so that you can use the appropriate table. Then use the other information to find whether you’ll be found disabled under the Grid Rules, or what you must prove to be found disabled under the Grid Rules based on a physical impairment.

 

 

GRIDs for Sedentary Work

Rule Age Education Previous Work Experience Decision
201.01 Advanced Age Limited or less Unskilled or none Disabled
201.02 Advanced Age Limited or less Skilled or semiskilled-skills not transferable Disabled
201.03 Advanced Age Limited or less Skilled or semiskilled-skills transferable Not disabled
201.04 Advanced Age High school graduate or more-does not provide for direct entry into skilled work Unskilled or none Disabled
201.05 Advanced Age High school graduate or more-provides for direct entry into skilled work Unskilled or none Not disabled
201.06 Advanced Age High school graduate or more-does not provide for direct entry into skilled work Skilled or semiskilled-skills not transferable Disabled
201.07 Advanced Age High school graduate or more-does not provide for direct entry into skilled work Skilled or semiskilled-skills transferable Not disabled
201.08 Advanced Age High school graduate or more-provides for direct entry into skilled work Skilled or semiskilled-skills not transferable Not disabled
201.09 Closely approaching advanced age Limited or less Unskilled or none Disabled
201.10 Closely approaching advanced age Limited or less Skilled or semiskilled-skills not transferable Disabled
201.11 Closely approaching advanced age Limited or less Skilled or semiskilled-skills transferable Not disabled
201.12 Closely approaching advanced age High school graduate or more-does not provide for direct entry into skilled work Unskilled or none Disabled
201.13 Closely approaching advanced age High school graduate or more-provides for direct entry into skilled work Unskilled or none Not disabled
201.14 Closely approaching advanced age High school graduate or more-does not provide for direct entry into skilled work Skilled or semiskilled-skills not transferable Disabled
201.15 Closely approaching advanced age High school graduate or more-does not provide for direct entry into skilled work Skilled or semiskilled-skills transferable Not disabled
201.16 Closely approaching advanced age High school graduate or more-provides for direct entry into skilled work Skilled or semiskilled-skills not transferable Not disabled
201.17 Younger individual age 45-49 Illiterate or unable to communicate in English Unskilled or none Disabled
201.18 Younger individual age 45-49 Limited or less-at least literate and able to communicate in English Unskilled or none Not disabled
201.19 Younger individual age 45-49 Limited or less Skilled or semiskilled-skills not transferable Not disabled
201.20 Younger individual age 45-49 Limited or less Skilled or semiskilled-skills transferable Not disabled
201.21 Younger individual age 45-49 High school graduate or more Skilled or semiskilled-skills not transferable Not disabled
201.22 Younger individual age 45-49 High school graduate or more Skilled or semiskilled-skills transferable Not disabled
201.23 Younger individual age 18-44 Illiterate or unable to communicate in English Unskilled or none Not disabled
201.24 Younger individual age 18-44 Limited or less-at least literate and able to communicate in English Unskilled or none Not disabled
201.25 Younger individual age 18-44 Limited or less Skilled or semiskilled-skills not transferable Not disabled
201.26 Younger individual age 18-44 Limited or less Skilled or semiskilled-skills transferable Not disabled
201.27 Younger individual age 18-44 High school graduate or more Unskilled or none Not disabled
201.28 Younger individual age 18-44 High school graduate or more Skilled or semiskilled-skills not transferable Not disabled
201.29 Younger individual age 18-44 High school graduate or more Skilled or semiskilled-skills transferable Not disabled

 


GRIDs for Light Work

Rule Age Education Previous Work Experience Decision
202.01 Advanced Age Limited or less Unskilled or none Disabled
202.02 Advanced Age Limited or less Skilled or semiskilled-skills not transferable Disabled
202.03 Advanced Age Limited or less Skilled or semiskilled-skills transferable Not disabled
202.04 Advanced Age High school graduate or more-does not provide for direct entry into skilled work Unskilled or none Disabled
202.05 Advanced Age High school graduate or more-provides for direct entry into skilled work Unskilled or none Not disabled
202.06 Advanced Age High school graduate or more-does not provide for direct entry into skilled work Skilled or semiskilled-skills not transferable Disabled
202.07 Advanced Age High school graduate or more-does not provide for direct entry into skilled work Skilled or semiskilled-skills transferable Not disabled
202.08 Advanced Age High school graduate or more-provides for direct entry into skilled work Skilled or semiskilled-skills not transferable Not disabled
202.09 Closely approaching advanced age Illiterate or unable to communicate in English Unskilled or none Disabled
202.10 Closely approaching advanced age Limited or less-at least literate and able to communicate in English Unskilled or none Not disabled
202.11 Closely approaching advanced age Limited or less Skilled or semiskilled-skills not transferable Not disabled
202.12 Closely approaching advanced age Limited or less Skilled or semiskilled-skills transferable Not disabled
202.13 Closely approaching advanced age High school graduate or more Unskilled or none Not disabled
202.14 Closely approaching advanced age High school graduate or more Skilled or semiskilled-skills not transferable Not disabled
202.15 Closely approaching advanced age High school graduate or more Skilled or semiskilled-skills transferable Not disabled
202.16 Younger individual Illiterate or unable to communicate in English Unskilled or none Not disabled
202.17 Younger individual Limited or less-at least literate and able to communicate in English Unskilled or none Not disabled
202.18 Younger individual Limited or less Skilled or semiskilled-skills not transferable Not disabled
202.19 Younger individual Limited or less Skilled or semiskilled-skills transferable Not disabled
202.20 Younger individual High school graduate or more Unskilled or none Not disabled
202.21 Younger individual High school graduate or more Skilled or semiskilled-skills not transferable Not disabled
202.22 Younger individual High school graduate or more Skilled or semiskilled-skills transferable Not disabled

 


GRIDs for Medium Work

Rule Age Education Previous Work Experience Decision
203.01 Closely approaching retirement age Marginal or none Unskilled or none Disabled
203.02 Closely approaching retirement age Limited or less None Disabled
203.03 Closely approaching retirement age Limited Unskilled Not disabled
203.04 Closely approaching retirement age Limited or less Skilled or semiskilled-skills not transferable Not disabled
203.05 Closely approaching retirement age Limited or less Skilled or semiskilled-skills transferable Not disabled
203.06 Closely approaching retirement age High school graduate or more Unskilled or none Not disabled
203.07 Closely approaching retirement age High school graduate or more-does not provide for direct entry into skilled work Skilled or semiskilled-skills not transferable Not disabled
203.08 Closely approaching retirement age High school graduate or more-does not provide for direct entry into skilled work Skilled or semiskilled-skills transferable Not disabled
203.09 Closely approaching retirement age High school graduate or more-provides for direct entry into skilled work Skilled or semiskilled-skills not transferable Not disabled
203.10 Advanced Age Limited or less None Disabled
203.11 Advanced Age Limited or less Unskilled Not disabled
203.12 Advanced Age Limited or less Skilled or semiskilled-skills not transferable Not disabled
203.13 Advanced Age Limited or less Skilled or semiskilled-skills transferable Not disabled
203.14 Advanced Age High school graduate or more Unskilled or none Not disabled
203.15 Advanced Age High school graduate or more-does not provide for direct entry into skilled work Skilled or semiskilled-skills not transferable Not disabled
203.16 Advanced Age High school graduate or more-does not provide for direct entry into skilled work Skilled or semiskilled-skills transferable Not disabled
203.17 Advanced Age High school graduate or more-provides for direct entry into skilled work Skilled or semiskilled-skills not transferable Not disabled
203.18 Closely approaching advanced age Limited or less Unskilled or none Not disabled
203.19 Closely approaching advanced age Limited or less Skilled or semiskilled-skills not transferable Not disabled
203.20 Closely approaching advanced age Limited or less Skilled or semiskilled-skills transferable Not disabled
203.21 Closely approaching advanced age High school graduate or more Unskilled or none Not disabled
203.22 Closely approaching advanced age High school graduate or more-does not provide for direct entry into skilled work Skilled or semiskilled-skills not transferable Not disabled
203.23 Closely approaching advanced age High school graduate or more-does not provide for direct entry into skilled work Skilled or semiskilled-skills transferable Not disabled
203.24 Closely approaching advanced age High school graduate or more-provides for direct entry into skilled work Skilled or semiskilled-skills not transferable Not disabled
203.25 Younger individual Limited or less Unskilled or none Not disabled
203.26 Younger individual Limited or less Skilled or semiskilled-skills not transferable Not disabled
203.27 Younger individual Limited or less Skilled or semiskilled-skills transferable Not disabled
203.28 Younger individual High school graduate or more Unskilled or none Not disabled
203.29 Younger individual High school graduate or more-does not provide for direct entry into skilled work Skilled or semiskilled-skills not transferable Not disabled
203.30 Younger individual High school graduate or more-does not provide for direct entry into skilled work Skilled or semiskilled-skills transferable Not disabled
203.31 Younger individual High school graduate or more-provides for direct entry into skilled work Skilled or semiskilled-skills not transferable Not disabled

 

 

 

Seem confusing? It is? But you don’t have to figure out whether the Grid Rules apply on your own. Newport News disability lawyer and Virginia Beach SSD attorney Corey Pollard can help.

 

Call us now for help with your claim. We can help you get the benefits you deserve, regardless of whether a physical or mental disability is affecting your life.

 

And if your disability was caused by a work accident, our workers comp attorney can help.