social security disability vocational grids, social security disability age categories

How Vocational Grids and Age factor into Social Security Disability Benefits

When you present a claim to the Social Security Administration for disability benefits, there are two ways to get approved. The first is to have your limitation listed in the “Blue Book”, which has clearly defined impairments. The odds of getting approved for your application the first time is around 23 percent, according to the Social Security Department. So most people receive their approval through the medical-vocational allowance. The medical-vocational allowance uses a vocational grid, and other determining factors to see if you qualify for benefits. Two crucial factors in making this decision are levels of exertion and age.


Using DDS, Disability Determination Specialists, Social Security will decide what level of exertion you can use at your work environment for a sustained period of time. They have five vocational grids, from least to most exertion These are their definitions:


Sedentary – According to guidelines, sedentary exertion is lifting no more than ten pounds at one time, as well as carrying articles like small tools and files. There can be some walking and standing in a sedentary job, even though the employee will be mostly sitting.


Light – This differs from sedentary in that the employee is expected to lift up to 20 pounds at a time. They are also expected to lift up to 10 pounds at a time frequently, and carry 10 pounds as well. There is also a lot of walking or standing within this category, or sitting most of the time while working with your arms and legs, pushing and pulling. You must be able to complete most of these activities to be considered qualified for light work. Social Security determines that someone who can do light work can also do sedentary work, unless they have limited dexterity or cannot sit for a sustained period of time.


Medium – To qualify for medium work, you must be able to lift up to 50 pounds with a lot of lifting or carrying objects up to 25 pounds. As with light work, social security will determine if you can do medium work you can also do light or sedentary positions.


Heavy – Heavy work is determined as lifting no more than 100 pounds at one time and lifting or carrying of objects up to 50 pounds frequently. If someone can do heavy work, social security determines that the candidate can also do sedentary, light and medium work.


Very Heavy – Very heavy work is considered to be lifting objects weighing more than 100 pounds at one time with ability to carry or lift objects weighing 50 pounds or more frequently. If someone can do very heavy work, social security determines that the person can also do all the other work categories.


Another crucial factor in determining benefits is the social security disability age categories. Social Security believes the older you are the less trainable you would be. They consider 45-49 years old to be less easily trained for new skills than 18-44 years old. From 50-54 years, social security disability categorizes you to be closely approaching advanced age, and 55 or older you have reached the advanced age category. Age plays a very important role, more so with physical limitations, but it also matters with non-exertional limitations such as poor memory. Social security uses a complex formula of age and physical exertion limitations to conclude as to whether someone would qualify for disability benefits.


The social security disability maze is complex. There are many factors that come into play when applying and successfully receiving benefits. Please feel free to contact us with any questions.