Understanding SSA Grid Rules – Age 60 and Above

Written by TC Newlin

TC is a disability litigator and one of the managing partners in the Social Security Disability Department at Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin. He has had the pleasure of helping thousands of people obtain the benefits they so desperately need.

May 18, 2021

Will the SSA Grid Rules Help Me Get My Social Security Disability Benefits?

Once you hit the age of 60, it becomes easier to be found disabled pursuant to the rules and regulations of Social Security Disability law. The reason it is easier is due to a thing called the Grid Rules. The advantages provided to claimants at age 60 and over continue until you reach normal retirement age.

Early SS Retirement vs. Social Security Disability

Individuals are better off being on disability than they are taking early retirement. When you take early retirement from Social Security, you receive a reduced benefit. If you are on Social Security Disability; however, you do not suffer that reduction and you remain on disability until you reach normal retirement age at which point you will receive the regular retirement benefit until death. As a result, you ultimately receive a greater monthly payment and a greater overall benefit by getting disability until you reach normal retirement age and then automatically switching over to your normal retirement benefit.

The problem that often arises is that you are not guaranteed disability and the process can take over a year. If your financial situation is dire, it could make sense for you to take the early retirement benefit and apply for social security disability simultaneously. In the event you win your disability claim, you will receive the difference between the regular retirement benefit and the early retirement benefit as back pay and your ongoing benefit will be increased from the early retirement amount to the regular retirement amount. In the event you lose your disability claim, you continue receiving your early retirement benefit until death, which is exactly what would have happened had you not applied for disability.

SSDI Grids over 60

Again, once you hit the age of 60 it becomes easier to be found disabled pursuant to the rules and regulations of Social Security Disability law. The reason it is easier is due to a thing we call the Grid rules. The grid rules were put into place by Congress because it recognized that the older you are the more difficult it is to adjust to new work and/or develop new skills.

Exertional LevelSittingStandingLifting
Sedentary6 hours2 hours10lbs occasionally
Light2 hours6 hours20lbs occasionally
Medium2 hours6 hours50lbs occasionally
Heavy2 hours6 hours100lbs occasionally
Very Heavy2 hours6 hoursOver 100lbs

How to Determine if Grid Rules Will Apply to Me

  1. The first step is to locate the table under the exertional level that you are capable of performing.
  2. Then you need to locate the row that correctly identifies your education level.
  3. The next column requires a definition of your past work. Past work is work that you have done over the last 15 years. Work is defined in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles by exertional level and skill level. The question about whether or not you have transferable skills is one that is typically answered by a vocation expert (“VE”) at a disability hearing. Your lawyer should be familiar enough with the dictionary to give you an approximation of what a VE might say at your hearing.
  4. The final column tells you whether or not an Administrative Law Judge would be required to award benefits.

Example:

Let’s say the claimant is 61 years old, is capable of performing sit down work (Sedentary exertional level), is a high school graduate and has past work at McDonald’s.

Step 1

Locate the table under sedentary work.

Step 2

Find the three rows for high school graduates.

Step 3

I googled ‘dictionary of occupational titles fast food worker’ and found a job actually titled FAST-FOODS WORKER.

If you click on that link, you’ll see at the bottom in bold that the strength of this job is “L” and the SVP of this job is “2”. (SVP 1-2 is unskilled; 3-4 is semi-skilled; 5 and up is skilled work).

Step 4

Note that the 4th row in the sedentary table has the same education and work experience as our example and warrants a finding of disabled.

Under these facts, the claimant would be found disabled.  

Sedentary Grid Rules SSA
EducationPrevious Work ExperienceDecision
11th grade or lessUnskilled work or no past relevant workDisabled
11th grade or lessSkilled or semiskilled work without transferable skillsDisabled
11th grade or lessSkilled or semiskilled work with transferable skillsNot disabled
High school graduate (or GED) or higherUnskilled work or no past relevant workDisabled
High school graduate (or GED) or higherSkilled or semiskilled work without transferable skillsDisabled
High school graduate (or GED) or higherSkilled or semiskilled work with transferable skillsNot disabled
Recent education that provides for direct entry into skilled work (high school graduate or more)Unskilled work or no past relevant workNot disabled
Recent education that provides for direct entry into skilled work (high school graduate or more)Skilled or semiskilled work with or without transferable skillsNot disabled

Light Grid Rules SSA
EducationPrevious Work ExperienceDecision
11th grade education or lowerUnskilled work or no past relevant workDisabled
11th grade education or lowerSkilled or semiskilled work without transferable skillsDisabled
11th grade education or lowerSkilled or semiskilled work with transferable skillsNot disabled
High school graduate or higherUnskilled work or no past relevant workDisabled
High school graduate or higherSkilled or semiskilled work without transferable skillsDisabled
High school graduate or higherSkilled or semiskilled work with transferable skillsNot disabled
Recent education or training for skilled workUnskilled work or no past relevant workNot disabled
Recent education or training for skilled workSkilled or semiskilled work with or without transferable skillsNot disabled

Medium Grid Rules SSA
EducationPrevious Work ExperienceDecision
6th grade education or lessUnskilled work or no past relevant workDisabled
7th through 11th grade educationNo past relevant workDisabled
7th through 11th grade educationUnskilled workNot disabled
7th through 11th grade educationSkilled or semiskilled work without transferable skillsNot disabled
7th through 11th grade educationSkilled or semiskilled work with transferable skillsNot disabled
High school graduate or higherUnskilled work or no past relevant workNot disabled
High school graduate or higherSkilled or semiskilled work without transferable skillsNot disabled
High school graduate or higherSkilled or semiskilled work with transferable skillsNot disabled
Recent education or training for skilled workSkilled or semiskilled work with or without transferable skillsNot disabled

Do I Qualify for SSD Benefits?

Browse our SSDI resource library to find clear answers and determine if you qualify for up to $3,148/month in SSD benefits.

Do I Qualify for Social Security Disability?

Browse our SSDI resource library to find clear answers and determine if you qualify for up to $3,148/month in SSD benefits.

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