Normally, a person seeking Social Security disability benefits must prove that he is unable to perform any full-time work. (It is not enough for applicant to show that he or she is unable to perform his past work.) However, at step five of the Sequential Evaluation Process, the rules are relaxed somewhat for certain applicants who are 50 years old and older, relaxed even more for certain applicants who are 55 and older, and relaxed even more for certain applicants who are 60 and older. According to SSA’s Medical-Vocational Guidelines (the “Grid” Rules), a 50-year-old may be found “disabled” in some circumstances even if he or she can still perform sedentary work, a 55-year-old may be found “disabled” in some circumstances even if he or she can still perform light work, and a 60-year old may be found disabled in some circumstances even if he or she can still perform medium work.
However, in order to take advantage of these step five “grid” rules, it must be shown that the applicant: (1) cannot perform his past relevant work, if any; and (2) has not, in the course of performing his past relevant work, acquired skills that are readily transferable to lighter work.
The issue of transferable skills is tricky, but can provide fertile ground for an experienced attorney to win difficult cases, especially when the claimant is age 55 or older. The law provides that when a claimant attains the age of 55 there can be no transferability of skills unless the job to which the skills transfer can be done with no more than “very little” vocational adjustment in terms of tools, work processes, work settings, or the industry.
The “grid” rules are complicated. If you 50 or older, we would encourage you to call us, as we would be happy to review your work history and let you know if these special rules apply to you.