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When it Comes to Social Security Disability Insurance, Age Matters

Age may just be a number, but more often than not, the wear and tear of increasing years takes a toll on the body. The Social Security Administration (SSA) takes the aging process into consideration (among many other factors) when determining a person’s eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

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SSDI benefits are available to people who have paid into the program and are unable to work because of a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death. 
There are many moving parts in this system. First, let’s examine the Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). In essence, the SSA has established the following four physical work categories to determine the physical workplace limitations a person may be facing:

  • Sedentary—the lifting of no more than 10 pounds at a time.
  • Light—the lifting of no more than 10 pounds frequently, and more than 20 pounds occasionally.
  • Medium—the ability the lift 25 pounds on a frequent basis and 50 pounds occasionally.
  • Heavy—being able to lift more than 50 pounds on a regular basis.

Secondly, the SSA constituted medical-vocational guidelines, often referred to as “the grid,” to aid in the decision-making process. The grid takes a variety of factors into account when determining eligibility for SSDI, including age, skills and education. These are in addition to the person’s RFC. The four age categories used are:

  • 18 to 44 years of age is considered “young.”
  • 45 to 49 years old is categorized as “younger.”
  • 50 to 54 years old is considered “closely approaching advanced age.”
  • 55 to 59 years of age is classified as “advanced age.”
  • 60 to 65 years old is deemed as “closely approaching retirement age.”

Combining all of these considerations—age, RFC (sedentary through heavy workloads) and the grid (skill level in the workplace and an individual’s education)—enables the SSA to establish eligibility for SSDI.

Such a system can even the SSDI application playing field as one gets older. For instance, individuals who are more than 55 years old and can no longer perform their jobs due to health problems may have difficulty performing other types of work because of their physical limitations, may have limited or no transferable job skills, or there may not be  enough jobs in the national economy that they could perform. Therefore, qualifying for SSDI can reduce their financial burden.

Applying for SSDI can be challenging regardless of one’s age. For those who are denied eligibility at any stage of life, it is imperative to have an experienced, knowledgeable attorney represent you during the appeal process.

 

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