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Non-mechanical Application of Social Security's Grid Rules

Many claimants with a pending disability application understand that it gets easier to be approved for benefits after age 50.

While the exact specifications of these "grid rules" can get rather technical, they basically work like this: let's say a 50-year-old woman with knee problems and a high school diploma has past work experience as a waitress and caregiver within the past 15 years. This work would be considered medium or light in terms of exertion and unskilled.

Following a hearing, an administrative law judge might determine that this woman can perform unskilled sedentary work, like on an assembly line. If she was 49, she would be found not disabled because this job is available, but because she's 50, the grid rules hold that because the only work she can perform is unskilled and sedentary in nature, she's still disabled and will be approved benefits.

The grid rules can often be a source of frustration for those who aren't quite 50, but in certain circumstances, the nonmechanical application of the grid rules can help a 49-year-old be approved for disability.

To be bumped into the higher age category and take advantage of the grid rules, the claimant first must be within a few days or months of turning 50. This isn't exactly defined by Social Security regulations, but it's unlikely a judge would accept this argument for anyone less than 54 years and 6 months old.

Second, the judge must consider whether there are additional vocational adversities. These might include a claimant not having a high school diploma or GED or having little to no past work history.

Significant restrictions in a claimant's physical abilities to perform work, such as problems with vision, hearing, reaching, or use of the dominant hand can also be used to argue that a judge should use the nonmechanical application of the grid rules.

The non-mechanical application of the grid rules can be one of the more complicated areas of disability law, but they can also make the difference to get you several months worth of back benefits you wouldn't otherwise be entitled to.

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