November 23, 2015

SSA's National Disability Forum Highlights Competing Views On Potential Grid Rule Changes

Last Friday, I joined over 50 people in person at the National Disability Forum in Washington, D.C. to discuss potential changes to the medical-vocational guidelines, more commonly known as the "grid" rules.  As we previously described, these rules are used by SSA decision-makers to form the basis of more than half of the nationwide SSDI award decisions and focus on a claimant's age, education, and work experience more than medical conditions.

Panelists provided a range of data, claimant examples, and insights (click here for the program’s agenda and presentations), including a focus on the socioeconomic status and opportunity for people with disabilities, especially the nearly 3 million people who seek SSDI benefits each year.

Those endorsing changes cited:

  • The U.S. workforce is becoming more service oriented, with less physically demanding jobs.
  • Workers are living longer and in better health.
  • Advances in technology have lessened the relevance for age, education and work history.
  • There is more opportunity for the role of retraining to help workers find jobs.
  • The increase in U.S. education levels, including high school and college degrees, make this parameter less relevant.

In contrast, some panelists against changes stated:

  • Further restrictions to the SSDI program would not address a larger problem: a sizable portion of the U.S.  workforce, ages 45-64 (with and without disabilities), is not working.
  • An increase in life expectancy does not necessarily equate with an ability to work.
  • A segment of the workforce is getting left behind in the current knowledge-based economy.
  • Legal protections from age discrimination have protected workers from firing, but they have not been effective in making employers hire people with disabilities.
  • The SSDI adjudication process and definition of disability are already regarded as among the most stringent globally.

In September, the SSA filed a notice in the Federal Register seeking input and data on the topic. The agency has extended the response deadline to Dec. 14 to accommodate today’s forum and more than 100 comments have already been filed. Companies, organizations and individuals who are interested in filing a response to the SSA’s notice can find more information by clicking here.

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Steve Perrigo
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Steve Perrigo

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