There are some instances where being older can be a benefit. If you are over the age of 50 and hoping to qualify for Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits, you may have an easier time than someone who is younger. This is because your age allows the Social Security Administration (SSA) to evaluate your case and ability to work differently.
Social Security Disability Requirements
SSDI has some strict requirements. You must first meet the program’s recent work test, showing that you have sufficient work credits in place to qualify for benefits. There are also income restrictions with SSDI, meaning you can only earn a certain amount each month and still qualify for benefits.
Provided you meet the non-medical requirements for SSDI, you will need to prove to the SSA that you are eligible due to your inability to work. There are two ways to qualify for SSDI benefits: based on the Blue Book and based on the Medical Vocational Allowance. When using the Blue Book, you will need to prove that you have one of the qualifying conditions that is outlined in the SSA’s guidelines.
You can also receive approval based on a Medical Vocational Allowance. This is a determination of how much work you are able to perform with your condition as well as what types of work you are qualified for. Once you reach the age of 50, the SSA has rules in place that make it easier to get approved through the Medical Vocational Allowance process.
What Are the Grid Rules?
The SSA’s Medical Vocational Guidelines are also known as the “Grid Rules.” The SSA has categorized work based on the five levels of very heavy, heavy, medium, light, and sedentary. These categories are used to determine a residual functioning capacity (RFC). For example, sedentary work is mostly sitting with the ability to lift no more than 10 pounds. Heavy work requires frequent lifting with the ability to lift up to 100 pounds.
Jobs are also considered to be either skilled or unskilled. Even if a person does not meet the criteria based on a medical condition in the Blue Book, they could qualify through the Grid Rules if they are unable to work and have no transferable skills. This is more likely to happen over the age of 50.
Qualified Work Over the Age of 50
The SSA understands that it will be more of a challenge for a person over 50 to be retrained to do another job. This means that if you have a disabling condition or have a limited work history, you have a greater chance of qualifying for SSDI than someone who is younger.
The SSA categorized people ages 50-54 as those “closely approaching advanced age.” There are different rules in place for this age group. If you are in this age group, there are grids assigned for the different RFCs that can help determine eligibility for SSDI. For example, a person aged 50 or older with an RFC for sedentary work would be considered disabled if they have a high school education or higher and their skills are not transferable to another position.
If your RFC is for heavy or very heavy work, getting approval for SSDI after the age of 50 will still be difficult. This is because the grid system assumes that, if you can do heavy or very heavy work, you can also do anything ranging from medium to sedentary work. Unless you have some other severe restrictions, your claim may be denied.
As a general rule, workers with a high school or less education will receive the largest benefit from the grid rules. Also, workers with a background in unskilled labor will have more eligibility. When you reach the age of 55, the grid rules expand even further.
Speak with a Qualified SSDI Attorney
While the grid rules can help you qualify for SSDI benefits after the age of 50, they are complex and confusing. The fact is that a majority of initial SSDI claims are denied, and some are due to technical issues such as missing or incorrectly filed paperwork.
At Walton Law, LLC, we have helped thousands of clients successfully navigate the Social Security claims system. You pay us nothing until you receive an approval for benefits. Contact our Fairhope office now at 251-455-5819 or reach us online to schedule a free consultation.