While a person of any age can qualify for disability benefits, it is important to understand that age can play a very significant role in the Social Security Administration’s analysis of a claim. The SSA uses a multi-step system in order to determine if someone is disabled under their rules. Certain conditions fall into specific categories called the Listing of Impairments (aka the Listings) and thus a finding of disability can be made without considering age and other factors. However, for many folks, their condition or combination of conditions do not meet the rigid requirements of the Listings. Therefore, the SSA will consider additional factors in order to make their determination. These factors include the individual’s age, educational background, work-related skills and their residual functional capacity. Residual functional capacity or RFC is an assessment of the physical and mental limitations a person would have in the workplace due to his/her disabilities.
These additional factors are all considered in a rather complicated chart that the SSA calls the medical- vocational guidelines (aka the Grids). The Grids were established in an effort to uniformly make determinations concerning disabilities that do not fall into the cookie-cutter Listings.
Each of the above factors are broken down into categories. Concerning age, the SSA has divided ages into five categories. Folks who are aged 18-44 are considered young individuals. Folks aged 45-49 are called younger individuals. Those who are between the ages of 50-55 are considered to be closely approaching advanced age. From ages 55 to 59, individuals are considered to be of advanced age. Finally, those in the age group of 60-65 are considered to be closely approaching retirement age.
These categories are very important for several reasons. The Grids are generally far more favorable for folks over the age of 50. The reason for this is that the SSA does not expect workers over the age of 50 to go through a great deal of retraining or to start working in a new field if they are limited to sedentary work. As the age increases to 55 or older, the SSA may find a person disabled even if they are limited to light work or possibly less than a full range of medium work. Essentially, even if a person’s disabilities are less limiting than a younger person, they may still be found disabled via the Grids.
If you are of any age and considering applying for disability benefits or appealing a decision, consult with an accredited firm. While our office is located in Vacaville, California, we serve all surrounding cities and communities including Davis, Winters, Fairfield, Vallejo, Benicia, Rio Vista, etc. Let us take a hard look at all of the factors involved in your claim and ensure that all bases are covered.