Older workers who don’t have a listed impairment can still qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Under current law, retirees can begin collecting their Social Security retirement benefits at age 62. Unfortunately, taking early retirement does come with a cost. The earlier you take Social Security retirement, the less money you get each month. Once you make the selection to take retirement benefits, the amount you get is locked in for life – with some exceptions. For older applicants who have a long work history, it is still the better choice to get SSDI benefits and postpone retirement benefits for as long as possible.
The Social Security grid rules
Older workers who have a listed impairment—a serious or even fatal medical condition on a pre-approved list of disabilities—can still file for SSDI. In order to determine if the applicant is disabled, the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses grids, charts with rows and columns, to make the analysis. The grid examination begins by looking at the type of work you do. There are five types of work levels, formally called residual functional capacity. The five levels are:
- Very heavy
Office workers typically do sedentary work. Workers who drove trucks, did construction work, or did other manual labor are normally classified in one of the other levels depending on additional factors, such as the weight of items they lifted. Workers between 60 and 65 often have a good chance of getting SSDI because Social Security recognizes that older workers can’t be retrained to do less strenuous work.
SSA uses different grids for different work levels. Once SSA finds the right grid for your work level, the next step is to look at your education level and skill set.
For example, if you did sedentary work, SSA would look at the Sedentary Work level grid. According to that grid:
- If your education level is 11th grade or less and you did unskilled work, then you are disabled and can get SSDI benefits.
- If your education level is 11th grade or less and you did skilled or semiskilled work (but those skills are not transferrable), you are considered disabled.
- If you graduated from high school or have a GED and you did skilled work that is transferable, then you are not disabled.
Our Philadelphia Social Security Disability lawyers understand how these complicated grids work. We can give you a good idea before you apply if whether you will (or won’t) meet the SSA grid disability definition.
What happens if your SSDI claim is denied because the grids think you can work?
There is still another option our Philadelphia SSDI lawyers can use. We can argue that your unique combination of exertional limitations (strength limitations) and non-exertional limitations (fine motor skills, ability to sit or stand for long periods of time, etc.) prevents you from doing the job you used to do. For example, you may be qualified to do medium-intensity work, but only if you can sit for an hour at a time. If the job you did requires that you stand all day, then we can argue you can’t do the job and should be considered disabled.
There are other approaches we may also be able to assert depending on your education level and work experience. The Philadelphia SSDI attorneys at Larry Pitt & Associates have helped many older SSDI applicants get approved for disability benefits. To speak with an experienced lawyer, please contact us or phone 888.PITT.LAW to discuss your claim. We help clients throughout Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties.