Does My Age Affect My Eligibility for Social Security Disability Benefits?

denied disability benefits claimYour age is one of many factors that can influence your eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits. While every situation is different, it is generally true that the older you are the easier it is to qualify for federal disability benefits.

In this blog, Sigman Janssen explains how an applicant’s age could impact his or her eligibility for benefits. We review the age brackets for applicants and how an applicant’s age could limit his or her ability to adapt to new types of work or learn new skills.

If you need assistance obtaining Social Security Disability benefits, contact our Appleton Social Security Disability lawyers to discuss your situation. An initial application is free, and there are no upfront costs to hire our services.

Decades of experience. Proven results. Call us at (877) 888-5201.

Age Brackets for Social Security Disability Applicants

The Social Security Administration (SSA) divides applicants into different age brackets. While the SSA evaluates each application on its own merits, they generally believe that advancing age limits your ability to adjust to other work.

For example, the SSA may approve some older applicants for benefits even though they have residual functional capacity that may allow them to do other work. Meanwhile, a younger applicant with a similar residual functional capacity may be less likely to be approved for benefits.

These are the four age brackets for Social Security Disability applicants:

  • Younger person (18-49 years of age): The SSA often considers people in this bracket to be capable of adjusting to new work. When you are in this age bracket, the SSA does not view your age as a serious obstacle to learning new skills and adapting to different types of work. It is important to note that the SSA may believe some applicants between the ages of 45 and 49 have a harder time adapting than people below age 45.
  • Person closely approaching advanced age (50-54 years of age): These are people who may have moderate limitation of their ability to adapt to other types of work. They are likely to be approved for benefits if they are only able to perform sedentary work and do not have many skills that would easily transfer to a new job. Sedentary work involves lifting a maximum of 10 pounds at a time and being unable to stay on your feet for more than two hours during an eight-hour shift. Sedentary workers spend most of their workday in a seated position. There is little stooping down to pick things up. Sedentary workers generally need full use of their hands to perform the repetitive hand and finger movements their jobs require. Sedentary work is the lowest exertional level. This is followed by light work and medium work. Disability applicants in this age bracket could also be approved for benefits if they can do medium work. However, they cannot have more than a high school diploma or GED. They must show they have no work history or a history of unskilled work.
  • Person of advanced age (55 or older): The SSA considers people in this age bracket to have significant limitation in their ability to adapt to new work environments or job retraining. If they are limited to light work, do not possess education that allows them to directly enter skilled work, and they do not have skills that could transfer to light or sedentary work, they are likely to be approved for benefits.
  • Closely approaching retirement age (60 years old or older): If you are in this age bracket, it is highly unlikely the SSA will decide you have transferable skills. If you are severely impaired and limited to light work, the SSA will only say you have transferable skills if the new job were so much like your old job you would need to make no adjustments or very few adjustments. Light work is work that requires lifting as much as 20 pounds and being on your feet for six hours of an eight-hour shift. Light work involves a significant amount of walking or standing – about six hours of an eight-hour workday. This is the main difference between sedentary work and light work.

The other types of work besides sedentary and light work are:

  • Medium work – If you can do medium work, you can lift up to 50 pounds at a time and frequently carry objects that weigh as much as 25 pounds. If you can do medium work, you can also do light or sedentary work.
  • Heavy work – This category involves lifting up to 100 pounds and frequently lifting items that are as much as 50 pounds.
  • Very heavy work – This work involves lifting more than 100 pounds and often picking up and carrying objects that weigh as much as 50 pounds. Applicants who can do heavy or very heavy work are unlikely to be approved for benefits.

GRID Rules for Social Security Disability Applicants

If you are more than 50 years of age, the SSA will use GRID rules to determine if you may be eligible for disability benefits. One of the main questions is whether you would be able to do another job before you reach retirement age.

You can think of the GRID rules as a table. Once the SSA determines your residual functional capacity, they can find it on the GRID to determine if you are eligible for benefits.

For instance, say you are limited to sedentary work because of a medically determinable impairment. If you are of advanced age, have a high school diploma, do not possess the skills that would allow direct entry into skilled work, you are unskilled or have no skills, you should be declared disabled. If you have a high school diploma or more, have the skills that would allow for direct entry into skilled work, and you have no previous work experience or unskilled work experience, you are likely to be declared not disabled.

The SSA has a separate table or GRID for those who are limited to light work because of a severe, medically determinable impairment. There is also a GRID for those who are limited to medium work.

How Age Factors into Your Ability To Adapt to New Types of Work

As individuals age, the SSA acknowledges that their physical and cognitive skills may diminish. This limitation may make it a lot harder to learn new job skills or adapt to different employment settings. These are assumptions the SSA is likely to make with most claims filed by people who are 50 years of age or older, and possibly people older than 45.

The SSA is likely going to expect more from people who are under the age of 50. You may need more evidence to prove you will be unable to adapt to a new work environment or learn new skills. Many younger individuals who obtain disability benefits are limited to sedentary work and have few if any job skills.

Another factor to consider is if you are close to the next age bracket. Even though you are not there yet, the SSA may evaluate your application like you are in the next bracket based on your medical issues, work history or other factors.

However, these are generalizations. The SSA is going to evaluate your work history, skills, education and other factors to determine if you can do some kind of work. Some people in their 50s and 60s are mentally sharper than others and less prone to confusion, poor memory or trouble concentrating.

Contact Sigman Janssen To Discuss Your Social Security Disability Application

You are going to need detailed evidence to prove you meet the Social Security Administration’s eligibility criteria. Obtaining all the evidence you need can be a challenge, especially without help from an experienced lawyer.

At Sigman Janssen, we have a proven history of success with these claims, and we do not charge any upfront costs.

Contact our firm to discuss your medical issues and learn how we may be able to assist you. An initial legal consultation is free.

Sigman Janssen. Experienced lawyers. Proven results. Phone: (877) 888-5201.