What Are GRID Rules?

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If your condition does not meet the criteria set by the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) “Blue Book,” you may still qualify for benefits under a medical-vocational allowance.

To receive a medical-vocational allowance, the SSA will put your case through a series of GRID rules to determine whether you qualify for benefits.

GRID rules are simply a variety of factors the SSA looks at that, when put together, helps the agency determine whether you can reasonably be expected to hold a full-time job.

The factors the SSA takes into consideration when determining whether you qualify for a medical-vocational allowance are:

  • Your age.
  • Your residual functional capacity.
  • Your education level.
  • The skills you’ve acquired through work experience.
  • Whether skills from past jobs could reasonably be transferred to another job.

Here’s a breakdown of what the SSA looks at in each category:

Age

For the purposes of its GRID rules, the SSA divides applicants into the following age groups:

  • Younger applicants (18 through 49)
  • Closely approaching advanced age (50-54)
  • Advanced age (55+)
  • Closely approaching retirement age (60+)

Age is a factor because it looks to see whether you could reasonably be expected to learn new skills for a different job. The closer to retirement age you are, the less likely the SSA will expect you to receive new job training.

Residual Functional Capacity

Residual functional capacity (RFC) refers to the level of exertion you can be expected to do without taking breaks; such as standing for seven hours or lifting 30 lbs. The SSA has five different RFC levels:

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

Most people applying for disability benefits receive an RFC of sedentary, light or medium. There are less jobs available the lower you get in the RFC levels, especially when it comes to unskilled work.

Education

The SSA has four different education categories in its GRID rules:

  • Illiterate or unable to communicate in English
  • Limited education or less (generally less than an 11th grade education)
  • High school graduate or more (includes GEDs), no recent training for skilled work.
  • High school graduate or more (includes GEDs), plus recent training for skilled work.

The SSA takes your education level into account to determine what kind of jobs you are qualified to do. If you have a higher level of education, they can reasonably expect you to do less strenuous, more skilled work.

Previous Work Experience

When evaluating past work experience, the SSA will determine whether your jobs were classified as unskilled, semi-skilled or skilled. They determine which category each job falls into by its job description and the amount of training it took to perform.

Skill Transferability

The SSA will also consider whether skills you learned from past jobs could reasonably be transferred to a new job without the need for additional training.

After evaluating each of these categories, the SSA will import the data into its GRID formula to make a disability determination.

Generally, the older you are and the lower your RFC, education and skilled work experience, the higher your chances of approval will be.

Understanding the GRID rules can give you an idea of what factors the SSA takes into consideration when evaluating your case for benefits. However, even if the SSA’s GRID rules say you aren’t disabled, there are other ways to prove you are unable to work and deserve benefits. An attorney with experience in disability law would know how to demonstrate this to the SSA during the appeals process.