The “Grids” are short for the Medical Vocational Guidelines used by Social Security when evaluating your disability case. The grids are used at Step 5 of the sequential evaluation. If you look here and scroll down, you will see a chart – these are the grids. The Grids only apply to physical impairments (non-exertional conditions such as depression are not considered).
There are 3 different grids: sedentary, light and medium. At the top of each chart, you will see rule, age, education, previous work experience and decision. Age can be one of three categories: advanced age (55+), approaching advanced age (50-54); and younger individual (18-49). Children are not evaluated under the grids. They are evaluated under the child standard of disability, discussed here. Education is self explanatory. Work experience is broken into unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled. For example, being a doctor is a skilled job because complex decision making and judgment is required.
The Social Security Administration (DDS and the Administrative Law Judge) will come up with an RFC (residual functional capacity) for you. The RFC is their estimation of what you can do with the impairments that you have. They will then apply that RFC to the Grids and the Grids dictate the outcome of your disability case.
Age is a significant factor when using the grids. The older you are the greater the chance you will be found disabled based on the grids. As you will notice, the younger you are the more “not disabled” decisions you see on the right. This does not mean that you will automatically be approved because you are over 50 years of age. Remember, the SSA still has to determine what your RFC is based on your medical records and testimony.
The Grids help your Social Security Disability case if you have physical impairments, are over 50 and have a limited education. For every one else, you will find little help there.
Also read Social Security Disability Process