If a disability prevents you from doing anything other than sedentary work and you are age 50 or above, you have a better chance of getting disability benefits than younger applicants. This is because the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not expect older workers to obtain extensive new training to be able to perform sedentary jobs if they have not performed them in the past. Age alone, however, will not justify an award of Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits.
The attorneys at Berger and Green have extensive experience helping people file SSD applications after age 50. We can review your claim before you file, giving you the best chance of approval. Call us at 412-661-1400 today for a free claim evaluation.
What Are the SSD Age Categories and What Do They Mean?
Social Security examiners will consider people in these age categories differently when they are deciding who will receive SSD benefits:
- Applicants age 50 to 54 are approaching advanced age;
- Those age 55 and up are advanced age; and
- People age 60 to 65 are approaching retirement age.
If you are 50 years or older, have a sufficient medical impairment, and have little formal education, you have a good chance of qualifying for benefits. A worker who is 55 or older has an even better likelihood of getting SSD benefits. The SSA does not expect older workers to make major career changes or undergo extensive job training after a disability.
How Does the SSA Decide Who Qualifies as Disabled?
Disability examiners use the Medical-Vocational Grid to make their decisions as to who will qualify for SSD benefits. The grid is a table that provides the specific SSA rule for each age group, education level, previous work experience, and decision as to whether they will consider that person disabled or not.
By way of example, imagine two workers have an identical, severe medical condition that limits them to sedentary work. One worker is 35 years old, while the other worker is 55. Even if their education and previous work experience are identical, the SSA is likely to consider the 55 year old disabled if they have not performed sedentary work in the past. The 35-year-old applicant will probably not qualify for disability benefits.
What Is My Residual Functional Capacity?
Residual functional capacity (RFC) refers to the physical work a person can perform during an eight-hour workday. The less RFC a person has because of a medical impairment, the more likely she is to receive disability benefits. In other words, the SSD examiner will probably determine that a person who is over 50 years old cannot stand for extended periods of time and cannot lift anything over 10 pounds is disabled.
The four classifications of physical RFC are:
- Sedentary, which means the person is not able to lift more than 10 pounds;
- Light, which applies when a person can lift no more than 10 pounds frequently and no more than 20 pounds occasionally;
- Medium, where an applicant can lift no more than 25 pounds frequently and 50 pounds occasionally; and
- Heavy, which describes a person who can lift more than 50 pounds frequently.
An RFC test also considers additional functional measures, such as your ability to stand, walk, climb stairs, use your hands, see, and communicate, as well as any environmental condition restrictions, like the inability to work in particularly warm or cool temperatures.
What Factors Does the SSA Consider When Determining Who Gets Benefits?
The SSD examiners do not only look at your age or your RFC when determining whether you will get disability benefits. They will also evaluate your medical information, and education.
When the SSA evaluates your application, they will look at these key points to determine whether or not you are disabled.
Are You Able to Earn a Living?
The SSA will only pay out disability benefits to people whose medical conditions prevent them from earning a living. To qualify, you must earn less than the 2017 earnings limit of $1,170 per month.
Can You Work Another Job?
Your medical condition must impair your ability to perform basic work activities and make it unlikely you can perform the tasks of another job. The SSA will look at your education to see if you have other useful job skills. If you are over age 50, they are more likely to determine that you cannot learn a new job.
Is Your Medical Condition Severe?
The SSA will need proof that your medical condition has lasted at least 12 months—or that your doctor expects it to last at least that long. If your condition is terminal, you may qualify for expedited benefits.
Do You Meet Impairment Listing Criteria?
The SSA’s lists the specific medical criteria applicants must meet for a variety of severe medical conditions. If your impairment meets the criteria for your listing, you are likely to qualify for benefits. If you do not meet these criteria, we can use your RFC to help you qualify.
Do You Meet the Technical Criteria of the Disability Program?
Each of the SSA’s different programs has specific technical criteria you must meet to qualify. These may involve your work history or your income and personal assets. Our attorneys can examine your application to determine if you meet these requirements.
How Can I Talk to a Lawyer About My Application?
The disability lawyers at Berger and Green are standing by to answer your questions about your application. Call us at 412-661-1400 for your free disability benefits evaluation.