Understanding the SSA Grid Rules for Ages 55-60

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

Ages 55-60: SSA Grid Rules & Social Security Disability Benefits

Although the grid rules start coming into play the day you turn 50 years of age, once you hit the age of 55, it becomes even easier to be found disabled by the Federal government.

  • The grid rules permit many people who are capable of light work or less to be found disabled.
  • 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.
  • Essentially, if you are unable to do your past work and are limited to performing work at the light level, you win at age 55 if you lack skills that transfer to work that you can do.

Exertional Level is defined as follows:

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 56 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 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

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
11th grade education or lowerNo past relevant workDisabled
11th grade education or lowerUnskilled workNot disabled
11th grade education or lowerSkilled or semiskilled work without transferable skillsNot disabled
11th grade education or lowerSkilled 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 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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