The social security administration's (SSA) medical vocational guidelines were designed to produce more uniformity among the social security administration's (SSA) decisions. As we mentioned in prior posts, the social security administration (SSA) looks at several factors to determine if a claimant meets the definition of disabled and therefore entitled to receive benefits under SSDI or SSI. We discussed the sequential evaluation process and within that process we mentioned how maximum physical residual functional capacity (RFC), age, education, and work experience affect the social security administration's decision (see prior posts). The medical vocational guideline is the vehicle used to arrive at that decision using the above mentioned factors.
The social security administration's (SSA) guidelines are divided into three sections commonly called "grids" in social security circles. These grids answer the million dollar question. Is this claimant disabled and therefore entitled to receive benefits under SSDI or SSI? These grids combine those factors listed above to arrive at an answer. If a claimant matches a description provided in the grids, no matter what anybody else believes, that person is either disabled or not disabled depending on what the grid says. The grids are binding on the social security administration, those who are making the decisions. This is how the social security administration (SSA) implements some uniformity in a potentially discretionary decision. It provides a little more certainty to social security disability attorneys and the claimants they represent.
The medical vocational guidelines work great when a claimant conveniently falls into one of the categories. But it is not uncommon for a claimant to fall between categories due to a claimant's exertional limitations for the type of work they are able to perform. When this happens we do not get a clear cut answer. The guideline is then used as a framework for the decision. The administrative law judge (ALJ) will often call upon a vocational expert to testify at a hearing to determine how many jobs exist in the economy for an individual claimant based on age, education, and work experience.
While the grids have brought some consistency in the decision making, it is not a sure thing. Once you have been identified in the grid you cannot exceed the maximum residual functional capacity (RFC). Proving this up can be difficult and time consuming depending on certain factors. Consulting a social security disability attorney to help you organize your case in the most effective way to show the administrative law judge your limitations is a good idea. A social security disability attorney can also help you when the vocational medical guidelines are used as a framework for the decision. Collecting the necessary information and cross examining a vocational expert can be difficult. What will you do when a vocational expert says there are several jobs you can do despite your disability, when you believe it is impossible for you to do the many jobs they list in the national economy? When that time comes, do not be without the assistance of a qualified social security disability attorney.