What are SSA Grid Rules?

Social Security

The Social Security Administration (SSA) sets rules for the disbursement of disability benefits for injured claimants based on multiple factors. One rule requires meeting a listing, and the other requires adherence to grid rules. 

First, the SSA determines whether you meet a listing, that is, whether you have a specific injury or impairment that automatically qualifies you for disability benefits. Conditions like cystic fibrosis or sickle cell disease, for example, will automatically meet a listing. However, if your injury or impairment does not meet a listing requirement, the SSA will make the determination regarding your potential disability by using a system of factors that, once put together, give a bigger picture of your potential level of disability. 

These factors are organized in a series of charts known as grid rules. When you apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the SSA will determine your benefits based on the factors found in the grid rules that, once compiled, will show whether you are able to return to work, or if you will be considered disabled. 

What Are Grid Rules?

Grid rules for Social Security disability take several factors into account. The primary categories are:

Your age
Your level of education
Your previous work experience

Within each primary category, there are multiple levels to determine the likelihood that you will be able to find sustainable employment. When the SSA then puts these levels together, the way that the grid rules overlap shows the SSA your individual level of disability. 

For example, if you are over 55, have less than high school education, and have only worked physical labor for your entire work life, it’s highly likely that if you are injured now, conditions will show that you are unable to work again. In this scenario, it’s more likely that you’ll receive benefits for disability than for a younger, more educated worker with a wider range of previous work experience. 

Keep in mind that if your impairment is mental or psychological, grid rules will not apply.

How do Grid Rules Change as I Age?

The SSA categorizes workers based on age the following way:

Younger Individual, 18-44
Younger Individual, aged 45-49
Closely approaching advanced age, aged 50-54
Advanced age, aged 55+

The SSA recognizes that particularly laborious work is no longer an option for aging workers with injuries or chronic conditions. Therefore, age is a major factor in determining whether an injured worker can return to the type of work they’ve done in the past. If you’ve worked jobs that are primarily physical labor, once you reach the age of 50-54 (considered “approaching advanced age”) or you are over 55 (considered “advanced age”) the rules adjust accordingly in determining your disability. 

For example, if you’ve been denied Social Security Disability benefits in the past, but have now passed the age of 50 or 55, it may make a difference in how the SSA views your level of disability. 

What Does my Level of Education Mean When Determining Disability Benefits? 

A person’s level of education is another important factor in proving a disability case with the Social Security Administration. The SSA looks at the following levels when determining education:

  • Illiterate or unable to communicate in English
  • Limited or less--literate and able to communicate in English
  • High School graduate or more

If the SSA can show that you have a level of education that indicates transferable skills to a different type of work than you’ve done in the past, it’s more likely that you’ll not be considered disabled. So, even though you may no longer be able to work as a brick-layer, you are capable of working sedentary work or working at a reduced physical workload. 

What if I’m Currently in Appeal?

If you’ve been denied disability benefits before and are currently appealing your case, your advancing age may be a benefit for you in winning benefits. For example, a worker with an injured back at 49 years old may turn 50 while still under appeal. This could make the difference as to whether the determination is for disability benefits, or not. 

Why Have an Attorney? 

When you’re seeking disability benefits based on grid rules rather than by meeting a listing, it’s a more complicated process that will produce results specific to you based on your age, your level of education, and your previous work experience. An experienced, skilled disability attorney will help you navigate the multiple important factors that the Social Security Administration is looking at when they are determining your case. 

Your attorney works for you and is on your side when it comes to facing the SSA and seeking the benefits that you deserve. Here are other reasons to retain a disability attorney:

  • Your case will be taken more seriously by the SSA and the judge on your case.
  • A local disability attorney knows the “ins-and-outs” of the system.
  • A disability attorney will make sure valuable information is included that can help you win your benefits.
  • They’ll represent you in a hearing and will help you prepare your statement.
  • You won’t miss deadlines for filing important documents and appeals.
  • An attorney is only paid if you win your claim.
  • It brings you peace of mind to know you have a legal team looking out for you.

Let us help you today. 

Here at Affleck & Gordon, our commitment to our clients sets us apart from attorneys in general practice. We specialize in winning SSI and SSDI benefits for you, and we care about you and your success. 

If your Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance claim has been denied, or you’re thinking about filing and don’t know where to start, Affleck & Gordon can help. We’ve been helping people in Georgia just like you for over 45 years. Sign up for a free case evaluation here, or call us at (404) 990-3945.

Related Posts
  • Can I get VA Disability for a Presumptive Disorder? Read More
  • Social Security Cost-of-Living-Adjustment (COLA) to Increase Benefits by 8.7% Read More
  • If I Apply for Social Security Disability, What Are My Healthcare Options? Read More