Medical-Vocational Guidelines – “Grids”

What are “Grids”?

If a person applying for disability benefits is found to be unable to return to their past work, then the next question is whether or not they can do any other work.  If the claimant can do other work then they will not be considered disabled, and if they cannot, then they will be found disabled under Social Security’s rules.  To answer this question of disability eligibility, Social Security looks to the Medical-Vocational Guidelines or “Grids” to see where a claimant falls in regard to the combination of their: (1) Age, (2) Education, (3) Past Relevant Work and (4) Residual Functional Capacity.  Those who fall into certain combinations are found to be automatically disabled.  For example a person who (1) is between the ages of 56-60, (2) has less than a high school education, (3) has past work that was unskilled and (4) can only do a desk job would automatically be found disabled per the Grids.


Residual Functional Capacity (RFC)

The last part of the Grids involves looking at the person’s Residual Functional Capacity.  The RFC is a measure of a person’s physical limitations broken down into categories.  A person with NO physical restrictions would have a Very Heavy RFC, meaning they can lift more than 100 pounds and be on their feet for most of the day.  It goes down from there.  A person with a Heavy RFC can lift up to 100 pounds and can be on their feet for most of the day.  A person with a Medium RFC can lift up to 50 pounds and can be on their feet for most of the day.  A person with a Light RFC can lift up to 20 pounds and can be on their feet for most of the day.  A person with a Sedentary RFC can lift up to 10 pounds and must be seated for most of the day, because they cannot be on their on their feet for a majority of the day.  Lastly, a person with a Less than Sedentary RFC has physical limitations such that they cannot sit or stand for any amount of time that would allow them to be employed.  This means that they cannot even do a job that involves sitting for most of the day and lifting very little.


After looking at a person’s age, education and Past Relevant Work, Social Security will use the RFC to determine the individual’s physical limitations.  A person’s age will most significantly affect his RFC.  For example, any person under the age of the 50 will have to show that they have a Less Than Sedentary RFC.  Again, this means that they cannot do any job whatsoever.  However, a person who is over the age of 50 would only have to show that they are limited to Sedentary work in order to meet a Grid.  This means that even if they can do Sedentary work, they can still be found disabled under Social Security’s rules.



This Grids system takes out some of the guesswork and subjective discretion that can be present in other parts of the Social Security process.  It is a more objective way to answer the question of whether a person can do other work.  Of course, there are other finer points that come into play, but this is generally how the Grids work. For further explanation on how your age will affect where you fall in the Grids you should contact a Social Security attorney.