Disability Qualification Calculating One Moment, Please...

Understanding the Rules and Requirements for Social Security Disability Cases

Calculate Your Disability Benefit

Navigating the world of Social Security Disability (SSD) can be complicated, but understanding the rules and requirements is crucial for anyone considering applying for benefits. This article aims to demystify the essentials so you can know what to expect.

What is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Before diving into the regulations, it’s important to distinguish between the two main types of disability benefits provided by the Social Security Administration (SSA): Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
  • SSDI: Available to individuals who have worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes.
  • SSI: Designed for disabled individuals who have low income and limited resources.

Eligibility Criteria


  1. Work Credits: You must have a certain number of work credits, which are earned by working and paying Social Security taxes.
  2. Disability: The disability must be severe enough to prevent you from engaging in any substantial gainful activity (SGA).
  3. Duration: The disability must be expected to last at least 12 months or result in death.

For SSI:

  1. Income: Your income must be below a certain threshold.
  2. Resources: You must have limited resources (less than $2,000 for an individual).
  3. Disability: Same disability criteria as SSDI.

Application Process

  1. Initial Application: File your application online, over the phone, or in-person at a local Social Security office.
  2. Documentation: Provide medical records, work history, and other relevant information.
  3. Decision: An initial decision is usually made within three to five months.

Appeals Process

If you’re denied, you can request:
  1. Reconsideration: A review by someone not involved in the initial decision.
  2. Administrative Law Judge Hearing: A new review if reconsideration is not in your favor.
  3. Appeals Council Review: A final review if the judge’s decision still doesn’t go your way.
  4. Federal Court: A lawsuit against the SSA as a last resort.

Social Security Disability Payment Structure

  • For SSDI: Benefits are calculated based on your average lifetime earnings before your disability began.
  • For SSI: The federal benefit rate (FBR) sets the maximum federal monthly SSI payment. Some states add a supplementary payment.

Taxes and Social Security Disability Benefits

  • SSDI benefits may be taxable, depending on your total income.
  • SSI benefits are not taxable.

Download our Social Security Application Checklist to ensure you are meeting deadlines and know crucial details for the best chance at a successful application.

How do Grid Rules play a part in SSDI Cases

The “grid rules” are part of the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) framework for evaluating disability claims. Officially known as the “Medical-Vocational Guidelines,” these rules consider an applicant’s age, education, work experience, and physical and mental condition to determine eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.
Social security disability resouce - disability qualification

What the Grid Rules Assess

Age: The older you are, the easier it might be to qualify for disability. The age categories typically are:
    • 18-44: Young
    • 45-49: Younger individual
    • 50-54: Approaching advanced age
    • 55-59: Advanced age
    • 60-64: Approaching retirement age
Education Level: Evaluates the highest level of education you have completed and how it might affect your ability to switch to different types of jobs. Categories can include:
    • Illiterate
    • Limited education (11th grade or less)
    • High school graduate or more
Past Work Experience: Considers the skill level of your previous jobs and how transferable those skills are to new positions. The primary focus is on the work you’ve done in the past 15 years. This is categorized as:
    • Unskilled
    • Semi-skilled
    • Skilled
Residual Functional Capacity (RFC): A measure of the work-related activities you can still perform despite your physical or mental impairments. RFC levels are categorized as:
    • Sedentary
    • Light
    • Medium
    • Heavy

How the Grid Works

The SSA’s grid rules operate in a matrix format that takes into account the four categories listed above. By cross-referencing your situation across these criteria, the SSA can make a more objective determination about your disability status.
For example, a 55-year-old with a limited education and unskilled work history might be found disabled under the grid rules even if they are capable of performing light work. On the other hand, a 45-year-old with the same level of education and work history might not qualify if they are capable of performing medium work.

It’s Not All About the Grid Rules

It’s important to note that the grid rules usually come into play during the latter stages of the disability determination process, typically after it has been established that your condition prevents you from performing your past work.
While the grid rules can be very helpful for older applicants and those with limited education and work skills, not all cases are adjudicated solely based on these grids. Medical evidence and expert testimony can also play significant roles in the decision-making process.

Consult an Expert

The grid rules can be complicated to understand, and each case is unique. If you’re considering applying for SSDI, consult with a disability lawyer who understands the intricacies of the grid rules and how they might apply to your situation.

See If You Qualify!

SSDI Benefits Calculator

How Much Can I Expect In SSDI Payments?

In 2023, you could be eligible for up to $3,627/month in SSDI benefits.

You may also like...

Navigating Compassionate Allowances

Navigating Compassionate Allowances

If someone has a serious mental or physical condition that affects their ability to work, they may need Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits to support themselves. However, getting these...

read more

October 24, 2023

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.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *