When determining whether or not a claimant can perform any work in the national economy, the Social Security Administration will refer to the GRID Rules. These rules are set up as a series of tables. Before applying the GRID Rules, the Social Security Administration will determine the level of exertion (sedentary, light, medium, heavy, or very heavy) a claimant is capable of. The GRID Rules are divided into three separate tables: one for claimants found to be capable of sedentary work, one for claimants found to be capable of light work, and one for claimants found to be capable of medium work. In each table, the Social Security Administration will compare a claimant’s age, education, and previous work experience and see if the table dictates a finding of “Disabled” or “Not disabled.” The GRID Rules tables can be found at the Social Security Administration’s website here.
How to Read the Tables
The tables are organized into columns labeled Rule, Age, Education, Previous Work Experience, and Decision. To determine whether a “Disabled” or “Not disabled” decision is warranted, choose the appropriate table based on the claimant’s level of exertion. Then, find the row that matches the claimant’s age, education, and work experience. The Decision column will state whether or not the claimant is to be found disabled, and the Rule column states the applicable rule number.
Explanation of Terms Used in the Tables:
In addition to functional limitations, the Social Security Administration considers a claimant’s age when deciding a claim. The Social Security Administration considers that older claimants will have a more difficult time adjusting to new work. The Social Security Administration breaks down claimants’ ages into the following categories:
Younger Individual: Ages 18 – 49
Closely Approaching Advanced Age: Ages 50 – 54
Advanced Age: Ages 55 and older
As a general rule, the higher the age category the claimant falls into, the easier it will be to qualify for disability benefits.
In addition to the above, the Social Security Administration also considers a claimant’s education. The Social Security Administration considers that less educated individuals will be less able to adapt to new work. For the purposes of the GRID Rules, the Social Security Administration categorizes educational achievement levels as follows:
Illiterate or Unable to Communicate in English:
The claimant is unable to read, write, speak, or understand English. This category applies to claimants unable to read, write, speak, or understand English regardless of education achievement level.
Marginal or None:
The claimant has completed no more than the 6th grade.
The claimant has completed the 7th grade but no more than the 11th grade.
High School Graduate or More (Does not Provide for Direct Entry into Skilled Work):
The claimant has completed the 12th grade or more. GED certificates fall into this category as well.
High School Graduate or More (Provides for Direct Entry into Skilled Work):
The claimant has completed the 12th grade or more and has education that allows him or her to do a skilled or semi-skilled job.
The Social Security Administration also considers a claimant’s past relevant work experience when applying the GRID Rules. Generally, past relevant work is any work performed by the claimant within 15 years prior to the onset of his or her disabilities. The Social Security Administration divides work experience categories into skilled, semi-skilled, and unskilled. The Social Security Administration considers skilled work to be work requiring high levels of judgment and adaptability, setting realistic goals or making plans independently, following complex instructions, and encompassing abstract ideas or problem solving. The Social Security Administration considers unskilled work to be work that requires little or no judgment and involves simple duties that can be learned in 30 days or less. If the Social Security Administration determines that a claimant’s work experience is skilled or semi-skilled, the Social Security Administration will then determine whether or not the skills learned from the claimant’s past work can be applied to other skilled and semi-skilled jobs that are within the claimant’s exertional level.