W2 and Social SecMany people in Chicago suffer from disabling conditions that do not meet the terms of a Social Security Administration impairment listing. These individuals may receive Social Security Disability benefits through medical vocational-allowances. The SSA grants allowances to people who cannot reasonably adjust to new work. To make this determination, the SSA uses a grid of medical-vocational guidelines.

Grid components

Before using the medical-vocational grids to make a determination, the SSA must assess five factors about the applicant. These are:

  • Age — The SSA recognizes four age categories, which are younger individual, closely approaching advanced age, advanced age and closely approaching retirement age. The respective age groups are 18 to 49, 50 to 54, 55 and older and 60 and older.
  • Education level — The SSA establishes the following education levels: high school or higher, with job training; high school or higher, without training; limited education; and illiterate or incapable of communication. Limited education is typically education below 11th
  • Past work experience — The SSA reviews an individual’s work history and classifies each job as unskilled, semi-skilled or skilled. Job duties, training and mandatory education are factored into this determination.
  • Transferable skills — The SSA evaluates whether the worker developed transferable skills during past work and whether the skills are applicable to jobs the worker can currently perform.
  • Residual Functional Capacity — RFC is a worker’s functional capability with the disabling condition taken into account. Based on RFC, the SSA may determine the individual is capable of one of five categories of work, which range from sedentary to very heavy work.

Each age group has a unique grid, and every grid is divided into separate sections for each work category. These sections contain three columns. The first column describes educational level. The second column specifies skill sets and transfer-ability of those skills. The third column shows what the disability determination is based on the given age, RFC, educational level and skill set.

Challenging grid decisions

Workers under age 50 typically do not qualify for SSD benefits under the grids, because they often are considered capable of learning new skills or adjusting to new work. People who can perform heavy work rarely qualify either. However, SSD applicants can challenge grid-based determinations on a few grounds.

Many people suffer from non-exertional impairments, which may range from mental illnesses to motor control issues. The grids do not factor in these impairments, even though they can significantly limit working ability. Other people may have skills that appear relevant but are not reasonably transferable. Applicants facing claim denial due to grid rules should speak to an SSD attorney about challenging the decision.