The Grids are a set of rules that help simplify the disability determination process.  If your case falls directly under a Grid rule then that rule determines whether your case is denied or awarded.  The Grids help older disability claimants because they recognize that it becomes harder to adjust to new and different work as you age.  The Grid rules also involve your education and work experience.

In many cases the Grids don’t apply because they only cover the simpler cases.  Most disability claimants’ cases are complex, involving several medical problems, symptoms, and medication side effects.  The Grids only consider whether you are limited in your ability to sit, stand, walk, and lift and carry weight.  If your conditions affect your ability to concentrate, deal with people, use your hands for grabbing and handling objects, or function in other ways then the Grid rules don’t apply to your case.

Let’s use an example to show how the Grid rules work.  Joe Claimant was injured when he was forty-nine years old.  He filed for disability immediately and turned 50 while his case was awaiting a decision.  Joe has a leg injury that prevents him from standing for more than 30 minutes, and he can only do seated work.  He cannot lift or carry much weight.   Joe’s injuries don’t cause any other limitations.  He is a high school graduate and his only past work was as carpenter.

Joe will win his case, but his benefits will only go back to his 50th birthday.   Before his 50th birthday Grid rule 201.27 states that Joe’s case must be denied.  When Joe turned 50 his case fell under a different rule, Grid rule 201.12, which states his case must be awarded.

There is a way to stretch the grid rules.  One of the secrets of Social Security disability law is the disability judges’ “deeming” ability.  Joe or his attorney can ask the judge to consider Joe to have been 50 for up to six months before his actual 50th birthday.  That is, they can ask the judge to “deem” Joe older than he really was, giving him a larger back award.

Getting a judge to use their deeming powers can be tricky.  The best method is to make an agreement with the judge to change the date you are claiming your disability began.  The result is to make it easier for the judge to write their decision while increasing your back award.

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