SSA Studies Possible Changes to Grid

Empire Justice January 12, 2016

In the September 2016 edition of the DAP newsletter, we reported on the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) ANPRM (Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking).  SSA sought comments on how it should consider the vocational factors of age, education, and work experience in determining disability.  Although not proposing any changes at this point, SSA was seeking comments “given today’s work environment and advances in technology and medicine.”

A number of organizations and individuals submitted comments by SSA’s December 14th deadline, including the Empire Justice Center.  Comments are available for review at http://www.regulations.gov.  Use the search function to find docket number SSA-2014-0081.  The letter from the Consortium for Citizens With Disabilities’ Social Security Task Force is particularly compelling.  It is replete with references to research and studies supporting its argument that the grid rules should not be changed:

  • Age remains an important vocational factor because mortality, the prevalence of work-limiting impairments, and challenges with learning new tasks all increase with age.  Changes to population-level life expectancy are not a good reason to raise age categories in the Grids, since living longer does not necessarily change how long individuals can work.  There are also significant disparities in life expectancy based on gender, race, income, and education.
  • Education, literacy, and prior work experience continue to be important determinants of an individual’s ability to work and to adapt to different kinds of work.
  • Given rapid changes in workplace technology, SSA should examine whether 15 years is still appropriate for determining which work is past relevant work experience.  While changes in workplace technology, assistive devices, and the Americans with Disabilities Act have made some jobs easier for some people, this is not universal and should not be used to change the Grids.

The CCD comments are also available as DAP # 574.