Nearly one in five Americans report having some form of disability. If you find that you are unable to work due to an accident or medical condition and you are older than 50, special rules apply to you. One of the main things that are considered when you apply for Social Security Disability through the Social Security Administration (SSA) is if you can return to the same work you’ve done previously or if you can adjust to a different type of work.
The SSA recognizes the obstacles that older workers face when adjusting to another type of work to do regularly and tends to treat older workers more favorably during the application process.
Qualifying for Social Security Disability
Qualifying for Social Security Disability requires the following three things:
- You can’t work in your current or previous position due to your health
- Your health problems are too severe to allow you to switch positions
- Your medical conditions will affect you for a year or more
However, when you reach the age of 50 or above, the SSA considers it more difficult for you to change your line of work.
When determining if someone qualifies to receive assistance, the SSA relies on the “grid” assessment. The grid rules are a set of evaluations used to determine the level of someone’s disability regardless of an official diagnosis. The grid analyzes four different factors:
Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) – This assessment determines how much, if any, strength-related work you are capable of completing. This can include lifting, walking, standing, pushing, etc. The less work you are capable of doing, the more likely you are to receive benefits.
Education – Assessing education is broken up into different categories: 1) illiterate or unable to communicate in English, 2) limited education (completion of 11th grade or lower), 3) high school graduate or above, or 4) recent education that trained you for a skilled position. The less education that you have received and the longer period of time that has passed since receiving that education, the more likely you are to receive benefits.
Previous Work Experience – Applicants are ranked as unskilled, semi-skilled, or skilled depending on the requirements of their previous position. The less experienced you are deemed to be, the more likely you are to receive benefits.
Transferability of Skills – This evaluates the amount of your experience from your current or previous position could potentially transfer to a new position. The fewer transferable skills you have, the more likely you are to receive benefits.
One benefit for applying for Social Security Disability over the age of 50 is that the grid rules are adjusted according to age. This means that those above 50 have more lenient requirements when it comes to qualifying for disability benefits.
The SSA uses four different categories of functioning capabilities when determining someone’s ability to work. The categories are determined by how much weight you are required to lift during the work day.
- Sedentary– Does not require you to lift more than 10 pounds.
- Light– Involves lifting 10 pounds or less on a frequent basis and no more than 20 pounds on an occasional basis.
- Medium– Involves frequently lifting 20 pounds and occasionally lifting 50 pounds.
- Heavy– Requires frequent lifting of 50 pounds or more.
Even if you are able to perform some level of work, you may still be approved for disability benefits based on the fact that you may be unable to adjust to a new type of work. In addition to medical conditions and physical restrictions, age, educational background, and work history are all taken into account.
For example, workers between the ages of 50 and 54 may be eligible for disability benefits even if they can perform sedentary labor. Those between the ages of 55-59 could be eligible even if able to perform light work and, in some circumstances, those age 60 to age 64 may be approved for Social Security Disability even if proven able to perform up to medium work.
Your Odds of Getting Approved
While it is much more challenging for someone under the age of 50 to be approved for disability benefits, it is still recommended to make your claim with the help of a lawyer. Having an attorney will increase your chances significantly and they are able to review your file to ensure that you have reliable evidence and that your case is properly received.
You Deserve to Receive Social Security Benefits
You’ve worked for years or perhaps all of your life. A portion of every paycheck went to Social Security which means that you’ve paid into the Social Security Disability program. As a form of insurance that you’ve earned when you are no longer able to work.
To claim your Social Security Disability benefits, work with an attorney that treats you like a neighbor instead of a number.