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While the baseline analysis of a social security disability claim revolves around the questions of whether or not a claimant can perform previous work or any other work in the national economy, there are specific rules that apply to claimants over the age of 50.

Here’s how the rules breakdown generally: If you are under the age of 50, there are a couple of ways to qualify for social security disability. Firstly, social security agrees that you simply cannot perform any of your past work or any other work in the national economy. The national economy means every type of job that exists in the United States of America – no matter the location. Secondly, you meet or equal a social security disability listing. Meeting or equaling a listing is not terribly common, but certain illnesses and impairments can meet these listings and result in a per se approval of the disability claim. To meet or equal a listing, there are very specific effects, results, and medical diagnoses that must be fulfilled according to medical records of evidence entered into the claimant’s file. These are typically difficult to meet without the opinion of a medical expert, but they can sometimes be met and the listings are a pathway to disability approval.

Why is 50 a magic age?

If a claimant is over 50, the regular pathways to disability approval remain intact and available, but there is another way to get approved for disability benefits: GRID rules. GRID rules come into play once a claimant reaches the age of 50, and these rules change at the age of 55 and again at 60. The general rule is that the older a claimant, the easier it is to obtain approval for disability. However, despite this general rule being true, there are multiple other factors that can play into the likelihood of success that are unrelated to age. That said, the reason it becomes easier to obtain SSD benefits after the age of 50 is the application of the GRID rules.

How are the GRID rules applied?

GRID rules are essentially a set of rules that take into account the claimant’s educational level, exertional level of previous work, SVP level of previous work, transferable skills gained at previous work, ease of transition to new types of work as connected to claimant’s age and apply the claimant’s current physical abilities to these relevant rules. There are per se disability outcomes connected to many of these combinations, depending upon the variables that each claimant’s case possesses.

This sounds complicated, how about an example?

While it is complicated in application, many GRID cases come down to the exertional requirements of the claimant’s previous work compared to the exertional limitations of the claimant’s current physical abilities. In other words, the physical nature of what the claimant did previously versus what the claimant is able to physically do after becoming disabled. For instance, if a claimant over 50 has a high school education and performed medium exertional level work in the past but can only perform sedentary work since the disabling condition arose, that claimant will likely not possess any skills that transfer from medium to sedentary and will likely meet a GRID rule. There are many other combinations of previous exertional levels, skill levels, and current restrictions that can end up meeting a GRID rule, and we could go through almost endless hypothetical cases that meet a GRID rule. However, the most important thing to understand about GRID rules are that they come into play after a claimant’s 50thbirthday, and the higher the previous exertional level of past work the better when it comes to taking advantage of GRID rules.

These complicated and occasionally confusing aspects of a social security disability decision can be explained and worked through by a knowledgeable social security disability attorney rep. It is always a good idea to speak to an experienced attorney rep when a claimant has been denied disability benefits at any step of the process.