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How Social Security's "Grid Rules" Work

The grid rules, or "medical vocational guidelines" are used in cases involving claimants over age 50.

These rules take into account that while there may be some jobs available for older workers, they may not have the skills or education to perform these jobs, and so should still be found disabled.

Qualifying for disability using the grid rules means showing that exertional limitations impact your physical ability to work.

Because only physical impairments are considered under the grid rules, psychological conditions like depression and anxiety are not taken into account by the judge, though these can still be used in alternative arguments for disability benefits.

The grid rules, which are part of a table put together by the Social Security Administration, consider the age and education of the claimant, as well as the skill level of their past work and whether they learned any transferable skills in their past employment.

A judge reviewing a case under the grid rules must first determine what level of work a claimant can do. This can range from very heavy (think construction work) to sedentary office work.

If a judge finds you are limited to sedentary work, it's likely the judge will make a finding of disability under the grid rules.

If that sounds confusing, consider this example: a 54-year-old man with a high school degree and past work as a carpenter applies for disability due to degenerative disc disease.

He testifies that he can only sit for 20 minutes before he has to stand up, and has trouble sitting for more than two hours all day. He says he cannot stand and walk for more than 15 minutes without having to sit down.

If the judge finds that the claimant can only perform sedentary work, Medical Vocational Rule 201.14 then comes into play. This rule states that if a claimant is between the ages of 50 and 54, has a high school education, cannot perform skilled work, and has no transferable skills based on their past work, then the claimant must be found disabled.

The key is to be found that you can only do sedentary work, because if the judge finds the same claimant could perform light work, then he would be found not disabled under Medical Vocational Rule 202.14.

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In Minnesota, we handle Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims. Throughout the nation, we handle SSDI applications and appeals for people from Ohio to Kansas, North Dakota to Texas and everywhere in between.

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