Is Your Social Security Disability Case Being Decided On The Grid?

You may have been led to believe that when you apply for Social Security disability, you must meet one, or more, of the medical requirements appearing on Social Security's list of impairments. While having a listed condition may make your chances of qualifying better, you may also qualify if you don't have listed condition. When you do not have a listed impairment, Social Security has a set of grid rules they will use to help to determine whether or not you are disabled. Knowing what these grid rules are and how they work may give you an edge when trying to get your case approved.

What Are Grid Rules?

Grid rules are officially called the Medical - Vocational Guidelines. They were nicknamed grid rules due to the fact they are laid out in a five column table, and the information is accessed like a grid.

Unlike the list of impairments, which focus solely on your medical information, grid rules take into consideration a lot more information relevant to your case. Social Security realizes as you age, it will be harder for you to find a job. This becomes even more difficult if you have limited education, poor communication skills, and only a few marketable job skills, to go along with your physical limitations.  

What Information Is Considered?

Physical Limitations

Grid rules are only able to be used by claimants who have some form of physical limitation. They cannot be used to determine the cases of those who are solely claiming mental health issues, or a a pain diagnosis. Your doctor must have certified that you are unable to stand or lift to some degree. These restrictions are called your residual functional capacity, or RFC, and will often appear as:

  • Sedentary: With a sedentary rating, your doctor is telling Social Security you are only able to sit for 6 - 8 hours per day and perform work which does not require you to lift anything over an occasional 10 pounds. With a sedentary rating, you cannot do any type of work requiring you to walk or stand.
  • Light:  Under this rating,  you are able to walk or stand for 6 out of 8 hours, regularly lift 10 lbs. and occasionally lift 20 lbs, 
  • Medium: If you have a medium rating, your doctor is stating you can stand or walk for 6 out of 8 hours, and you are able to regularly lift 25 pounds and occasionally lift 50 lbs. 

Each of these RFCs has their own grid that is used in determining your disability.


For the purposes of Social Security disability, the older you are or the closer you are to retirement, the easier it often is to be rated as disabled. Grid rules breaks down your age into the following categories:

  • 60 - 64
  • 55 - 59
  • 50 - 54
  • 45 - 49
  • 40 - 44

Although those determining your disability claim will most often used your actual age, they may take into consideration the next age category if you will change age brackets in the next few months.


How much education you have is a major factor in whether or not you will be able to be learn new job skills. For the purpose of the grids, the education categories are:

  • Illiterate, or unable to communicate in English
  • Limited education (11th grade or below)
  • High School/GED 
  • High School and more

The last category is for those who have a high school diploma, but who may have also received training for some type of skilled work in the last few years. 

Previous Work Experience

In reviewing work you have performed in the past, Social Security will classify it as unskilled, semi-skilled, or skilled.  If you have not worked in the past fifteen years, Social Security may also rate you as having no work experience. 

Along with looking at your past work experience, Social Security will also consider whether the work skills you possess can easily be transferred over to a new position. If you possess a wide array of transferable skills, you may find it harder to win your case.

How Are The Grids Used?

Once this information is reviewed, use of the grids is simple. You simply use the grid for the relevant RFC. You find the right entry in the age column, find your level of education, and then find the entry for your skill level. Once you have lined all of these up, the last column will give you a decision of whether or not your claim will be considered disabled. 

Social Security disability is a difficult process for anyone to attempt to navigate, but when you do not have one of the major medical impairments, it can be even more difficult. An experienced, knowledgeable Social Security attorney can help you prepare your claim. Using their expertise in this area they will be able to give you advice, which may give you an edge in getting your claim approved. Contact a professional like Todd East Attorney at Law for more information.