If a disability claimant is under the age of 50, he or she must prove that due to disability, there are no available jobs they could do in the national economy.
That rule changes when an applicant reaches age 50 though. In fact, a judge could determine there are a wide number of sedentary jobs available to you and still find you disabled.
This is thanks to the Medical-Vocational Guidelines, more commonly known as the Grid Rules to disability attorneys.
To fully understand the Grid Rules, it’s important to first understand that the Social Security Administration puts work into five categories: very heavy, heavy, medium, light, and sedentary. In addition, jobs are considered to be either skilled or unskilled.
Let’s say a 53-year-old man has a high school education, suffers from degenerative disc disease, and has past work experience as a laborer, which SSA considers to be medium work.
After a hearing, an administrative law judge determines that the man does not meet or equal a listing for a disability, but has a residual functional capacity for sedentary work.
Because that individual could not perform his past work and has no transferable skills to sedentary work, he would be found disabled under the Grid Rules.
On the other hand, if he was 49, that individual would not be found disabled because he could still do sedentary work.
To make matters a little more complicated, if instead of having a history of work as a laborer, that individual had past work as data entry clerk, a skilled sedentary job, the judge would find he could do his past work and is not disabled.
However, if the judge were to find that due to pain, mental health issues, or side effects of medication the data entry clerk would be limited to unskilled sedentary work, he would then be found disabled.
So while the Grid Rules can certainly help a case, they don’t automatically mean you’ll be found disabled just because you’re over age 50. An experienced disability attorney can help explain the Grid Rules to you and how they will impact your case.