If you are considering filing for Social Security Disability Benefits, then one of the first things you will come across is reference to the Medical-Vocational rules or the "Grid.” This framework serves as the basis for a majority of the denials and awards issued by the Social Security Administration at DDS and at the hearing. So, what is the Grid?
The Grid is in essence a flow chart that directs the ALJ whether or not to approve your benefits. (To see what this looks like, visit: http://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/cfr20/404/404-app-p02.htm). The Grid is broken down into three tables based upon the claimant’s exertional limitations. This means there are tables for sedentary, light and medium work levels.
In addition to a claimant’s physical restrictions, the Grid also considers her age, education level and whether the claimant has skills that would transfer to less strenuous work. As you look over the Grid a few things become apparent. The level of physical impairment is critically important. Proving that you are restricted to light work, instead of medium can completely alter how your case is considered.
Similarly, your age is an important factor. (See previous post on this topic). Generally speaking, once you hit certain ages 50, 55, 60, what you need to show to establish disability under the Grid decreases substantially.
Finally, with regard to education and transferrable skills, the better your education, the harder it is for you to prove disability. So, if you have significant jobs skills (e.g. past skilled office work or advanced degrees) you will have a more challenging time proving disability than other individuals of the same age with the same types of restrictions.