Other than senior discounts at the movies, there are few advantages to aging. But Social Security has rules which benefit disability applicants as they move through different age groups and closer to retirement age. These are commonly called “Grid Rules.”
SSA’s Grid Rules are a bit of an artifact as they were created in an age where most unskilled jobs were also physically demanding jobs. In the modern day, there are many unskilled jobs with light or even sedentary exertional demands. But the Grid Rules are still appropriate, as they implicitly recognize that even though we are living longer as Americans, our bodies are still breaking down as we age.
The Grid Rules generally apply for a period of 16 years. What follows is a simplified discussion of the Grid Rules and their impact on a disability application.
If you are an applicant that is under age 50, your medical records must convince Social Security that there is no work anywhere in the country that you can perform on a regular and sustained basis. For an applicant aged 50 to 54, if Social Security finds that your medical impairments limit you to a maximum of sustained sedentary work (a sit-down job that requires you to lift no more than 10 pounds) and you don’t have a history of sedentary work or skills transferable from your past work to a sedentary job, then you are disabled even though you could perform unskilled sedentary work.
As one ages further, the rules become even more helpful. From age 55 to 65, if your medical impairments prevent you from performing your past work, and limit you to performing a maximum of light work (defined as standing up to 6 hours of an 8 hour day and lifting up to 20 pounds), and you don’t have skills from a prior job that are transferable to a light job, then you are disabled. This is true even though you could still, in theory, perform an unskilled job at the light exertional level. Additionally, at age 60 and up, the transfer-ability of skills learned at a prior job to a light job must require very little, if any, vocational adjustment.
Clearly, the Grid Rules give an advantage to applicants over age 50. That said, we are pleased to represent and have a long history of success for applicants of any age group.