Age as a factor for SSDIYour age can be a crucial factor in approving your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) application. The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers your age when deciding whether to approve your claim for disability benefits. Generally speaking, older applicants have a better chance at approval than younger adults. Your age factors into Medical-Vocational Guidelines for deciding your SSDI eligibility. Other factors include the severity of your disability, your work history, your educational background, and more. 

For SSDI Applicants Under 50 Years Old

The SSA categorizes applicants between the ages of 18 and 44 to be “young individuals.” SSDI applicants aged 45 to 49 are “younger individuals.” Both of these groups may have a harder time getting approval for their disability benefits claim. This is because the SSA expects younger workers to be able to do a broader range of work. A person who had a more physical job before may be able to transition to a more desk-based job. 

The SSA believes it is reasonable for a younger worker to retrain for a different line of work. They can seek higher education or learn a new skill, pivoting to a different career. It is easier for a younger person to do this than it is for an older worker. As such, adults under 50 must show they cannot do even the easiest, least physically demanding jobs. Applicants under 50 that the SSA deems “medically disabled” may still qualify for SSDI. 

Another factor to consider is the number of work credits you need to qualify for SSDI. Most people need at least 40 credits, with 20 credits from the past ten years. Workers under 24 only need six credits over a three-year period. Workers aged 24 to 31 only need 12 credits in the past six years. 

Adapting to New Work After Age 50 or 55

It is a common misconception that “50 is the magic number.” Applicants over the age of 50 are more likely to be approved for SSDI benefits. But, approval is not guaranteed. The SSA still wants to see proof that you are unable to work due to your medical condition. Applicants aged 50 to 54 are considered “closely approaching advanced age.” If you are between the ages of 55 and 59, then the SSA dubs you “advanced age.”

The SSA may decide people in these age ranges are disabled if they are limited to light or sedentary work. They may lack the education to enter into skilled work. They may also lack job skills to transfer to light or sedentary work. The assumption is that older people will have a harder time adapting to new work. It’s less reasonable to ask a 59-year-old to go back to school than it is to expect that of a 30-year-old. 

The Medical-Vocational Guidelines “grid” rules are used to determine whether you are disabled. Age is one of the major factors in this grid. The SSA also looks at Residual Functional Capacity (RFC), existing skills, job training, and education. The RFC relates to the five levels of exertion for physical job duties. These include sedentary, light, medium, heavy, and very heavy work. RFC also accounts for mental capabilities, from unskilled work to semi-skilled work to skilled work. Grid rules are more lenient for people over the age of 50.

Applying for SSDI Near Retirement Age

For people born after 1960, the full retirement age is 67. Once you reach that age, you no longer qualify for disability benefits. Instead, you may be eligible to get retirement benefits. As with the other age groups, the SSA has a category for people aged 60 to 64. They are “closely approaching retirement age.” 

Like the other age groups, the SSA also looks at education, work skills, and RFC for those closely approaching retirement age. A person may be disabled if they have less than a high school education and lack a skilled work history. The level of leniency also increases, as it’s even less likely that someone over the age of 60 can upskill and retrain for a different line of work. Even if they could technically retire, they may be eligible for SSDI if their disability prevents substantial gainful activity (SGA). 

The Skilled Insight of an Experienced SSDI Attorney

Working with a knowledgeable SSDI attorney can greatly improve your chances for approval. It may be easier to qualify for disability benefits after the age of 50. But, without adequate documentation and a strong case, the SSA may still deny your claim. In fact, the SSA denies the majority of initial SSDI applications. 

Benefit from the decades of experience that Keefe Disability Law brings to the table. Senior Partner John L. Keefe and his team have represented over 12,000 disability clients in Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. Since 1994, they’ve specialized in helping people with disabilities. As long-time advocates for people with disabilities, they are dedicated to assisting claimants to get the SSDI and SSI benefits they need and deserve.