How are decisions made as to who will receive disability, and who will be denied? It may seem mysterious, but there is some basic information out there that can make this clearer.
First of all, you should know that the disability statute (law) contains a matrix, or chart, called the Medical Vocational Guidelines. This is also commonly referred to as “the Grids.” The Grids take into account your age, your work experience, and your education. Taken together with what the Social Security Administration determines to be your RFC (Residual Functional Capacity), this will determine if you meet their standards for disability.
Your Residual Functional Capacity is what the Social Security Administration and/or a Social Security Judge determines are your remaining physical or mental capabilities, in spite of whatever injury, illness, or condition you are dealing with.
How Age Plays In
The laws regarding disability actually discriminate against younger people. That sounds harsh, but it’s true. The older you are, the easier it is to get disability.
The Social Security Administration considers anybody under the age of 45 to be a younger person, still capable of quite a few years of work and of learning and adapting to new jobs. Therefore, people under the age of 45 have the greatest burden of proof when it comes to showing that they can no longer be gainfully employed.
At age 50, the Social Security Administration classifies you as closely approaching advanced age, and at age 55 you are considered to be of advanced age. At age 60, you are classified as closely approaching retirement age. And as the law stands now, you are eligible for “early retirement” at age 62.
The Role of Work Experience
What did you do for work before you became disabled? If you are unable to do your PRW (Past Relevant Work) with your current level of disability, that’s important. Past Relevant Work is work that you have done in the last fifteen years of your work life.
Did you sit all day at your previous jobs, or were you on your feet or highly active? Work is classified as heavy, medium, light or sedentary. “Sedentary work” is generally work that is done in offices, or mostly seated. “Light work” does not require a lot of lifting, but does require you to be on your feet six hours in an eight-hour day. “Medium” and “heavy” work involve significant ability or lifting.
Your education also plays a part here. Social Security law recognizes that if you do not have a high school degree (or a GED), the number of jobs available to you (particularly once you are at least 50 years old) becomes extremely limited, especially if you have limitations that limit you to sedentary or light work. So in other words, for the purposes of getting disability, it is actually an advantage not to have your high school degree.
Putting it all Together
So basically, the Social Security law will look at your age and your abilities, given your limitations, to decide whether you can still work.
Here’s an example: Let’s say you are a 55-year-old construction worker who did not graduate from high school. You routinely have to lift over 50 pounds at work. You suffer a back injury and are now limited to lifting no more than 10 to 20 pounds. In this case, it’s likely that you will be considered unable to perform your Past Relevant Work.
Now the question turns to whether there is additional work in the national economy that you could do. Since you do not have a high school degree (or a GED), the number of jobs available to you (particularly since you are over 50 years old) is extremely limited, especially since you have limitations that limit you to sedentary or light work. You are a good candidate for disability.
So, when we look at all the factors, workers who:
- Are older
- Are less educated
- Previously worked at physically demanding jobs
…stand the greatest chance of being approved for disability benefits.
Contact Experienced Florida Social Security Benefits Attorneys
If you have already been denied Social Security benefits, or if you are thinking of applying, we can help make sure your application has the information it needs to get through the system successfully. Learn more about the representation we provide by contacting us online or calling (352) 376-1200 to schedule your free initial consultation.