Is It Easier to Get Disability After Age 50?

People of any age can apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). However, there are special rules that make it easier for applicants over the age of 50 to obtain disability benefits. Typically, SSDI applicants will need to prove that they cannot maintain gainful employment because of their medical disability. They also need to prove that they cannot adjust to a different type of work for the same reason.

At Disability Advocates Group, we have a thorough understanding of all of the regulations related to obtaining SSDI benefits. If you are a worker over the age of 50, we will help you navigate the special rules for applicants your age. The sooner you speak to an experienced Los Angeles SSDI lawyer, the better. Contact our Los Angeles law firm today to schedule your initial consultation.

Special Disability Rules for Workers Over the Age of 50

The Social Security Administration uses complex rules to determine which applicants are eligible to obtain SSDI and SSI benefits. Typically, workers need to prove that their medical condition makes them incapable of performing their previous job or any other type of work. The Social Security Administration uses a different set of rules for applicants over the age of 50. These rules are often called the “grid rules” because they are outlined in charts that resemble a grid. These grid rules divided up regulations based on the specific age group of the applicant as follows:

  • 50-54
  • 55-59
  • Over 60

The purpose of the grid rules is to account for the difficulty that older workers sometimes face in finding gainful employment. With rapid changes in technology happening daily, it is also often harder for older workers to adjust to learning how to perform a new type of work. The greater the applicant’s age, the easier it is for him or her to obtain SSDI and SSI benefits. 

Understanding a Worker’s Residual Functional Capacity (RFC)

The grid rules for applicants over the age of 50 consider multiple factors, including the worker’s residual functional capacity (RFC). A worker’s residual functional capacity is the maximum level work that the worker can perform, taking into account the limitations of his or her medical condition. Social Security Administration claims examiners determine each applicant’s residual functional capacity on a case-by-case basis. They examine the medical records of the worker as well as his or her work history to get an idea of what each worker is uniquely capable of doing. The Social Security Administration’s grid rules characterize a worker’s residual functional capacity as follows:

  • Sedentary
  • Light
  • Medium
  • Heavy
  • Very heavy

Applying The Grid Rules to a Worker Over Age 50

The process of applying grid rules is complicated. Social Security Administration claims examiners treat every case uniquely, so there are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to each applicant’s residual functional capacity. Even if an applicant is physically capable of functionally working at capacity, he or she could still qualify for SSDI benefits. For example, a worker over the age of 60 could receive SSDI benefits even though a claims examiner determines that his residual functional capacity is to perform some heavier work. 

A worker between the age of 50 and 54 could be denied benefits even if he is capable of doing only sedentary work. On the other hand, a worker age 57 may be eligible for benefits even though he or she can only perform light work. The greater the applicant’s age category, the higher the chance that he or she will be approved for SSDI benefits. 

The SSA Determines Eligibility on a Case-By-Case Basis

Even though SSA claims examiners determine claims on a case-by-case basis, when it comes to SSDI benefits, age is on the applicant’s side. Each SSDI case’s outcome depends completely on the facts of the worker’s unique situation, including the worker’s education, age, work experience, transferable skills, and residual functional capacity. Typically, SSA claims examiners only use the grid rules when an applicant cannot perform his or her previous work.

For example, suppose an applicant aged 60 worked in the construction industry before receiving a diagnosis of epilepsy. In that case, the claims examiner will consider whether he’s still able to do the same job in the construction industry. Thus, the grid rules may not apply if the applicant has performed any past work at a substantially gainful activity level within 15 years before being diagnosed with the medical condition. Even if you don’t qualify for the application of the grid rules, there are other useful strategies you can employ to obtain SSDI benefits.

Applying the SSDI Grid Rules in a Borderline Age Situation

You may be wondering whether or not the SSDI and SSI grid rules would apply to your case. When a worker is almost to the age that would place him or her in the next higher age category, an administrative judge could bump a worker into the next category. The judge will likely consider additional vocational adversities as long as the applicant meets specific criteria. The worker must be within at least a few months of entering the next higher age bracket. Additionally, the applicant must show that changing the age bracket would result in the applicant qualifying for benefits.

Speak to an Experienced Los Angeles Age 50 and Disability Lawyer Today

The procedures for receiving SSDI and SSI benefits are complex. Working with an experienced Los Angeles SSDI lawyer will help increase your chances of obtaining benefits. At Disability Advocates Group, our lawyers have an in-depth understanding of the grid rules, and we can help you throughout the SSDI application and appeals process. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.