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Macro photo of tooth wheel mechanism with REGULATION, LAW, disability law, GRID rule, medical vocational guidelines

GRID Rules are regulations the SSA uses to award disability benefits if you are over 50 years old. The GRID Rules are actually called the Medical Vocational Guidelines. These guidelines apply to you if your disability does not meet or equal a listed impairment. These special rules also apply to you if you are over the age of 50. The rules change again at 55. And again at 60. The rules will tell you whether you qualify for benefits.

The GRID Rules take into account a number of factors. First, the SSA looks at your age. Specifically, they will want to know if you are over 50 or over 55. Second, the SSA looks at your education. For instance, have you graduated from high school. Third, the SSA looks at your past relevant work. This is work you have done in the last 15 years. Fourth, the SSA will look at your “residual functional capacity.” This is the category of physical ability that is left to you after they take into account your physical condition. The rules will apply and then, if you have a disabling condition, then the GRID will say you qualify for benefits.


The GRID Rules only apply to you if you are 50 years old or older. The reason the rules only apply at 50 years old is that is the age Congress chose to draw a line between a younger individual and an older individual. This distinction is made in the law for the purpose of determining disability. Your age category is very important especially if you have exertional limitations from your disability.

For example, if you are between the ages of 50-54, the GRID rules call you “closely approaching advanced age.” When you reach the age of 55, the rules label you as of “advanced age.”  Once you are 60 years old, your new label is “closely approaching retirement age.” The purpose of these categories is to look at your employability in the labor market. The older you get, the harder it is to get a new job. Congress understood that when they made these rules. The rules are there to acknowledge that an older person with a disability may not be able to compete against younger people in the job market.


Your education level may seem like a simple question, but the GRIDS split your formal education or lack of it, into various categories. The first category is “illiterate or unable to communicate in English.” If you cannot read or you do not speak English, it may be difficult to find a job. The second category is”limited or less.” This means that your education level is below a high school graduation level. The third category is a high school graduate or more. This category encompasses everything after high school graduation, including college and trade school.


Past relevant work is not what is sounds like, because under SSA’s rules – all work is not relevant. First, in order for your work to count as work, you have to have earned enough money at a job for it to count as “substantial gainful activity (SGA).” Substantial gainful activity is a different amount of money every year. For example, in 2021 is $1,310. In 2020, it was $1,260. This is how much money you would need to earn in a month (gross) for it to count as work.

For instance, if you earn $3000 in one month at work, then that month is a month of SGA or work. If you only earn $600 in one month, then that is not a month of “work.” Therefore, if you get a job as a cashier and you only work at that job for 3 months and earn $600 per month, it will not count as “past relevant work.” The reason is doesn’t count as work is that you didn’t earn enough money and you didn’t work the job long enough. Therefore, you do not count the job as past work experience.

Your past relevant work is important because the SSA has to determine if you can return to your old jobs. The Social Security Administration gets your old jobs off of your work history form. They look at your old jobs to see if you have skills. Then, they determine if you have skills from your past work that transfers to other jobs. For instance, if your old job was that of an electrician, perhaps you have the skills to work in another job putting small appliances together. Or, if you have past work as a nurse, you may have the skills and knowledge to work at a blood bank or as a hospital intake worker.


Social Security will make a determination about what level of exertion you can perform in a work setting. Usually, a judge will determine your “residual functional capacity” at a hearing. The judge looks to your medical records and the opinion of your medical doctor to determine what category of work you can do. The judge will put you into one of 5 categories.

The five categories are from the least level of exertion to the most: sedentary, light, medium, heavy, and very heavy.  Individuals who can perform heavy or very heavy work are generally not found disabled. Therefore, there is no GRID chart for that level of exertion.

The other thing the SSA will look at are your skills. If you have skills from your past work, those skills may transfer to other jobs. There are three types of job skills; skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled. A vocational expert at your disability hearing will determine if you have skills from your past work that transfer to other jobs.

The GRIDs are a chart for sedentary, light and medium exertional levels.  After Social Security makes a finding about what your exertional level is, then they will then look at the GRID chart. The GRID chart will contain your exertion level and it will match it with your age, education, and past work. The chart will then direct a finding of disabled or not disabled. In general, the older you are the better chance you have of getting disability benefits.

Utah disability attorneys


At Cannon Disability Law, we use the Medical Vocational Guidelines or the GRIDS every day in court. Our attorneys and representatives argue the GRID Rules in court and our clients win their disability benefits. At Cannon Disability Law we specialize in helping you prove your disability that is due to depression. Our goal is to develop your case so that your medical records show the SSA you cannot work. In order to do this, we will need you to see the doctor and get treatment for your disability. Likewise, we will need the support of your doctor when we ask him or her to complete a letter stating why you are disabled.

Our attorneys practice disability law in Utah, Nevada, Idaho and California. We work with you over the course of the appeal process. It is a team effort. At each level of appeal, we will collect your medical records. Medical records from your treating sources prove your disability. We know you need disability benefits to replace your income. Over the past 30 years, we have won over $100 million in ongoing and past-due benefits for our clients. Obtaining disability benefits for our clients is the only kind of law we do. Contact us today for your free consultation.

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