Is it more difficult for older applicants to get SSDI?

Older Adult Getting Approved for SSD BenefitsGetting Approval for Disability Benefits When Approaching Retirement Age in Massachusetts 

If you are over 55 years old, you may worry about applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). You may be concerned it is more difficult to get approved for benefits as an older adult. The reality is it is easier to get approved for SSDI the closer you are to retirement. Age plays an important role. Generally, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is more likely to approve older adults than younger applicants. This is mostly because it is harder for older workers to transition to new jobs. 

Applying for SSDI Over Age 55

Proving you are disabled and unable to work as a result is the main factor for SSDI approval. The second element about being unable to work is easier to justify with older applicants. Whereas younger workers may return for more training and education, this becomes less viable as people age. Thus, qualifying for SSDI in your mid-50s and older may be less difficult. 

The Social Security Administration groups applicants based on their age group. The assigned age group affects how the SSA evaluates SSDI applications. Adults between 50 and 54 years of age are “approaching advanced age.” Individuals between the ages of 55 and 59 are considered “advanced age.” Over the age of 60, applicants are “approaching retirement age.” 

Other factors in reviewing SSDI applications include physical condition, mental condition, educational background, work experience, and work-related skills. The SSA also recognizes that older workers may face age discrimination in the labor market. Applicants over 55 who can do sedentary work may still qualify for benefits. 

SSA Blue Book Listings and Residual Functional Capacity Assessments

One way to qualify for SSDI benefits is to meet a Blue Book listing from the SSA. The Blue Book outlines specific criteria for specific disabilities. Take listing 4.02 for chronic heart failure as an example. To qualify, applicants must have systolic failure “with left ventricular end-diastolic dimensions greater than 6.0 cm or ejection fraction of 30 percent or less during a period of stability.” Each listing typically has several requirements.

Applicants who do not meet these criteria may still qualify for SSDI by meeting a Blue Book listing. They must prove their level of disability is medically equivalent. This involves completing a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment with a doctor. 

Based on the results of this form, the SSA may determine if an applicant can partake in substantial gainful activity (SGA). Age plays a major factor here. The SSA is more lenient with older applicants in deciding what severity and duration of impairment constitutes an inability to work. 

Understanding Medical-Vocational Grid Rules

To decide whether or not someone qualifies for benefits, the SSA uses medical-vocational grid rules. Based first on age, the guidelines determine whether someone can work despite their disability. For instance, a younger applicant in their 30s who had previously worked in construction may transition to sedentary office work. 

By contrast, people aged 60 and older with an equivalent disability may not be able to make the same transition to a different line of work. Along with the age group, the medical-vocational grid also considers a person’s education, previous work experience, and the results of their RFC test. 

For instance, an individual of advanced age (55 to 59 years old) with a high school education and unskilled work experience is deemed disabled. On the other hand, a similar person of advanced age with a high school education but with transferable skills from skilled or semiskilled work is deemed not disabled. A younger applicant (under 50) with a high school education and unskilled work experience is also deemed not disabled. 

The older someone is, the more likely they are to receive disability benefits. Applicants over the age of 50 are about twice as likely to collect SSDI benefits than 40-year-olds. People who are 60 years old are two to three times more likely to get SSDI than 50-year-olds. 

Keefe Disability Law Can Help You Apply

While it may be easier to get approved for SSDI as an older applicant, nothing is guaranteed. Applying for disability benefits is still a complex and nuanced process. A Social Security disability lawyer, like John Keefe and Patrick Hartwig, can guide you through this process. We can work with you to build the strongest application possible and improve your chances of a favorable outcome. 

Avoid common pitfalls like incorrect paperwork and lack of medical evidence. Keefe Disability Law has helped countless clients over the years get the disability benefits they need and deserve. Call us today to book your free consultation.

Patrick Hartwig
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Managing Attorney, Keefe Disability Law