Applying for Disability When You’re Over 50

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How We Can Help You If You Are Applying for Disability When You’re Over 50

Anyone with a disability that is severe enough to keep them from working can apply for Social Security Disability. Those applying for disability benefits over 50 may find it a bit easier to be approved for Social Security Disability. You will still have to show that you have worked enough quarters to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, and you will still have to show you are too disabled to work.

The SSA understands that disabilities are more likely as we age, and our bodies become less resistant to injury and illness. Further, the requirements regarding whether you can reasonably perform a different type of work become easier after 50 as education or training for a different kind of job becomes more difficult as we age. The SSA classifies age—in the context of receiving disability benefits—as:

  • A younger person is anyone under the age of 50. A person in this category must show their disability prevents them from getting a job their education and background qualify them to hold.
  • A person closely approaching advanced age are those between 50 and 54. The SSA considers a person in this age group may have difficulty adjusting to other types of work. Therefore, they do not have to prove that all different types of work would be impossible because of their disability.
  • A person of advanced age is anyone 55 through 59. The rules become more lenient for this age group as far as adjusting to a different type of job.
  • A person closely approaching retirement age is anyone 60 and older. The rules become even more lenient for this age group as far as adjusting to a different type of job.

If you need disability benefits over 50, although the rules are somewhat more relaxed, you can still benefit from having an experienced Toledo Social Security Disability attorney from Schaffer & Associates to guide you through the entire process.

Five Things to Know Before Applying for Social Security Disability

How Vocational Factors Affect Your Disability Evaluation

When the SSA determines whether you qualify for disability, one of the primary deciding factors will be vocational factors. Vocational factors have an exceptional impact on your claim for SSD benefits. You must prove that you are unable to do the work you have done in recent years and that you are unable to do another type of work activity. To do this, the SSA will review the following vocational factors:

  • Your work history
  • Your education
  • Your skills
  • Your age

The older you are, the more your age may be considered a disadvantage when starting a new career or learning new job tasks. The SSA understands that those over 50 may have a much harder time adapting to a new profession than a younger person. The SSA will look at your education to determine whether you can work in another field. They will also take into consideration whether the education you have was too long ago to still be relevant in today’s job market.

The SSA will also look at all the skills you learned in previous jobs to determine whether any of those skills could potentially transfer to a new job. For example, suppose you are a 32-year-old factory worker. You injure your back and are unable to continue working as a factory worker. Since SSA considers you a younger person, you will have to show that not only are you unable to work as a factory worker, but that you cannot work in a light or sedentary capacity in order to be eligible for benefits.

If, however, you are a 57-year-old factory worker who has a similar back injury, you may be more likely to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits by virtue of your age. SSA considers it much more difficult for you, at age 57, to learn a new skill and apply it to a new line of work. Therefore, at age 57, you may not need to show that you can work in a light or sedentary capacity in order to qualify for benefits. So, all things being equal, the 57-year-old is more likely to be approved for disability benefits than the 32-year-old.

Vocational factors are particularly applicable when your medical or mental condition does not match the requirements for a medical listing in Social Security’s Blue Book of impairment listings. In other words, your blocked artery may not fully meet the criteria, such as a percentage of blockage. While your health condition alone may not meet the criteria for disability benefits under SSSA, your vocational factors, particularly your age, may qualify you. As an example, muscle weakness and poor eyesight might not qualify you for disability benefits if you are 39 years old as a heavy equipment operator. On the other hand, if you are 50 or older, with the same muscle weakness and poor eyesight, SSA may reasonably assume you would have more difficulty finding another type of work. The SSA will examine both medical and vocational factors. If they find that, due to your age, you might have a difficult time being retrained and employed in a competitive workforce, you could be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits.

The Medical-Vocational Grid

The SSA has compiled a medical-vocational “grid” to determine whether those of a certain age should be found disabled. Using these grid rules, any applicant for Social Security Disability who does not meet the medical impairment listing will be determined disabled or non-disabled. It is important to note that even if SSA determines you are “not disabled,” an experienced Social Security Disability attorney can find ways to argue your disability, potentially resulting in approval. The medical-vocational grid rules implement several determinations to be made that include:

  • Your level of education
  • The skill level required in your past work
  • Whether any of those skills can be transferred to another job
  • Your residual functional capacity (RFC)

Residual functional capacity refers to a detailed assessment that assigns you a level of work. This level of work is based on any exertional limitations you may have—your RFC will be the most you can do on a sustained basis. There are five RFC work levels: sedentary, light, medium, heavy, and very heavy. If you can perform heavy or very heavy work, the SSA will assume you can also perform sedentary, light, and medium work as well. The RFC will also detail non-exertional limitations that could potentially restrict your ability to do work-related activities. Non-exertional limits include:

  • Using your fingers and hands to reach, handle, or manipulate objects
  • Whether you can pay attention and concentrate
  • Whether depression, anxiety, or nervousness prevents you from functioning
  • Whether you can see, speak, and hear
  • Whether you can climb, crawl, crouch, or stoop
  • Whether you can understand and remember detailed instructions
  • Whether you have environmental restrictions, i.e., you cannot be around noise, dust, or in extreme hot or cold environments.

For the grid, your educational level is divided into four categories: unable to read or write, 11th-grade education or below, high-school graduate, and recent education that trained you for a skilled career. Your past relevant work will be determined to be unskilled, semi-skilled, or skilled, based on your descriptions of your past work, how the Department of Labor classifies your work, and how long it took for you to be trained for the job.

If you have no relevant work experience, the grid is more likely to deem you disabled, mainly if you are older and have limited education. As an example, if you did not graduate from high school, have no relevant work experience, and are 55 or older, you will likely be deemed disabled, if you have a severe physical and/or mental impairment. Finally, the grid considers whether the skills you learned in your previous job can be transferred to a new job with a minimum of additional training.

To determine how the SSA might decide your case, you will find the table for your age group that discusses RFC level. You will next see the rows that describe both your prior work experience and your education level. Based on those factors, the third column will show the most likely decision that the SSA will make. There are grid rules for those under the age of 50, those between the ages of 50 and 54, those between the ages of 55 and 59, and those over the age of 60.

The older you are, the more favorable the grid rules will be in determining whether you are disabled. If you can show your prior job skills are not transferable, you have combined impairments or limitations, or you are considered a “worn-out worker” (one that has done arduous work for 35 years or more), you may have a better chance at being granted disability.

How Schaffer & Associates Can Help with Your Disability Benefits Over 50

If you are disabled and unable to work and need disability benefits over 50, our highly-skilled Social Security Disability attorneys can help. We can successfully guide you through the often complex, challenging process. We are experienced, compassionate, and fully dedicated to you and to your future. We have been helping people who need disability benefits over 50 for many years; not only can we help you file your initial application, but we can also represent you during the appeals process when necessary. Contact Schaffer & Associates today!