How to Qualify for Social Security Disability in Your Mid to Late 50s

Man With Glasses in His 50sYou may not be old yet, but the Social Security Administration considers you of “advanced age” if you are between 55 and 59. While the term may bother you, there are benefits to being of advanced age in the eyes of the Social Security Administration.

If you are permanently and totally disabled, you may apply for Social Security disability benefits. As long as you have paid enough into the Social Security system, you will qualify for benefits if you meet the requirements of a listing in the Blue Book Listing of Impairments. The Blue Book applies the same way for all adult applicants who are not yet of retirement age.

However, even if you don’t meet the requirements of a Blue Book listing, you may still qualify for disability benefits.

Medical-Vocational Grids for People Age 55 to 59

If you are applying for disability and you don’t satisfy a Blue Book listing, then the Social Security Administration may consider your age, education, past work experience, and type of work you can still do to determine your disability status. This determination is done by consulting the medical-vocational grid for your age group and the result is known as your residual functional capacity.

Sedentary Work Residual Functional Capacity

There are eight possible combinations of education and previous work experience that may be considered for sedentary workers between the ages of 55 and 59.

Four combinations result in a finding of disabled, including:

  • An unskilled worker with a limited education (less than a high school degree or GED)
  • A skilled or semiskilled worker whose skills are not transferable to sedentary work and who has a limited education
  • An unskilled worker who has at least a high school education
  • A skilled or semiskilled worker whose skills are not transferable to sedentary work even if the worker is a high school graduate (or has more education) but that education does not provide for direct entry into skilled work

The other four combinations result in a finding of not disabled. These include:

  • A skilled or semi-skilled worker with transferable skills, even if the worker has a limited education
  • An unskilled worker who has at least a high school education that provides for direct entry into skilled work
  • A skilled or semi-skilled worker with transferable skills who has at least a high school education, even if that education does not provide for direct entry into skilled work
  • A skilled or semi-skilled worker whose skills are not transferable to sedentary work but who is at least a high school graduate and whose education provides for direct entry into skilled work

Light Work Residual Functional Capacity

There are also eight possible combinations of education and previous work experience that may be considered for light work workers between 55 and 59. As with sedentary work, four combinations will result in a finding of disabled and four combinations will result in a determination of not disabled.

For light work purposes, a worker between the ages of 55 and 59 is disabled if they are:

  • Unskilled and have a limited education or less
  • Skilled or semi-skilled but with nontransferable skills and they have a limited education or less
  • Unskilled and have at least a high school education, but their education does not provide for direct entry into skilled work
  • Skilled or semi-skilled but with nontransferable skills and they have at least a high school education, but their education does not provide for direct entry into skilled work

Workers of advanced age are not disabled if they are:

  • Skilled or semi-skilled with transferable skills, even if they have a limited education
  • Unskilled but they have at least a high school education, and their education provides for direct entry into skilled work
  • Skilled or semi-skilled with transferable skills, even if their high school education or more advanced education does not provide for direct entry into skilled work
  • Skilled or semi-skilled but with nontransferable skills, but their high school or higher level of education provides for direct entry into skilled work

Medium Work Residual Functional Capacity

There are also eight possible combinations of education and work experience for medium work workers between 55 and 59. However, only one combination will result in a finding of disabled. A worker of advanced age is considered disabled for medium work if the worker has no previous work experience and has a limited education.

The Social Security Administration does not maintain a medical-vocational grid for heavy or very heavy work, but an experienced disability lawyer can provide you with the information that you need about this type of work.

Social Security Disability May Be More Important Than Ever

Facing a permanent and total disability so close to retirement age can be frightening. You deserve to get the disability benefits that you’ve earned. If you are between the ages of 55 and 59, we encourage you to contact our Boston-area Social Security disability lawyers for a free consultation about your rights and possible monthly benefits. We can review your eligibility, file a disability application on your behalf, or appeal a denial of benefits, if appropriate. Call us today to learn more.

 

John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney, Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyer