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Age and Social Security Disability/SSI

  • By:The Law Center for Social Security Rights
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One of the most important factors in evaluating your claim for Social Security Disability and/or SSI is your age. The Social Security Administration’s (SSA) philosophy is that at certain ages it becomes more difficult to adapt to new situations, demands, and circumstances. So, if you are age 49 or younger, SSA says you can perform most jobs in the economy. On the other hand, if you are 55 or older, SSA feels that it is unfair to expect an older worker to learn new vocational skills they have never done. So, even if you have a medical impairment that rules out your past relevant work (PRW) but you are 49 or younger, you would not be considered disabled because there are other types of jobs that might be easier that you can do. These jobs are called sedentary jobs and require less lifting and sitting most of the day. So, even if you cannot perform your past work, SSA will assume you are still young enough to adapt to a different job that is not as difficult to perform.

If you fall into the age category 50-54, which the law calls “Approaching Advanced Age”, under most circumstances, you receive more favorable treatment from Social Security. However, if you can still perform any jobs you have had in the past that were past relevant work, you cannot be considered disabled. If you fall into the age category 55-59, what SSA calls Advanced Age, you now receive much more favorable treatment by SSA. Again, if you cannot do past relevant work, the burden again shifts to Social Security to show you can do other jobs. But if your Advanced Age is combined with a lack of education and skills, you are favorably situated to win your disability case. SSA has the burden to show you cannot do other jobs when you have shown you cannot do past relevant work. But Social Security can meet its burden of proof by using a independent expert to testify that despite your medical impairment, you still can do other jobs in the national economy. If you are in the 60-64 age group what the SSA calls Retirement Age, then the SSA, you may only have to show that you cannot do your PRW as SSA does not expect someone in this age group to adapt to new work circumstances.

In summary, SSA regulations consider a person’s age as a major component of the application. So, if you are only 49, you may want to work another year before you apply.

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