Hey! You ain't no spring chicken anymore...and how that impacts your Social Security disability case

Here's the easiest way to put this: the older you get, the easier it is to be approved for Social Security disability benefits.


A quick recap:


  1. Social Security disability is a 5-Step process. SSA examines not only if you can do work you have done in the past, but also if your impairments do not keep you from doing other jobs within the national economy.

  2. Work is divided into different exertional levels: sedentary, light, medium, heavy, and very heavy. These different categories define how long a persona can stand and/or walk and how much weight can be lifted at one time and frequently throughout the day.

So, here's how this works. We'll divide people up into different age groups: (1) anyone under the age of 50, (2) anyone age 51-54, and (3) people 55 years and above.


For people below the age of 50: Remember this, there basically has to be no work in the national economy a person can perform. This includes work you have done in the past as well. SSA will make a determination as to work you can still do even with your impairments, and if there are jobs available, then you will be denied benefits.


Now, we look at people age 50 to 54: This gets even more complicated, but let's keep it very simple. (The complicated part is if a person has what is called "transferable work-skills," but let's forget about that for right now). If a personal is only capable of performing sedentary work -remember those exertional levels above? Then, he or she will possibly be found disabled -as long as there are no transferable work-skills and he or she cannot do any job performed within the last 15 years.


Next, let's discuss people over the age of 55: Same as for the 51-54 aged people, but this time even if a person can perform sedentary or light work, then he or she will be found disabled (again, as long as there are no transferable work-skills and work in the past cannot be returned to).


Clear as mud right?


Let's make it even more difficult. Here's the deal on transferable work-skills and past work (quickly):


  1. If a person works at a job and that work is such to a degree that it gives a person skills that he or she can transfer to another job without much effort (especially for people 55 and over), then it keeps them from getting on disability. For people 55 and over, the ability to transfer those skills must be very minimal because SSA recognizes that as we get older, it gets harder to find another job and employers willing to hire you.

  2. If you have done work in the past and it's at an exertional level as what SSA believes you are capable of performing, then you could lose your disability case because SSA believes you can return back to that type of work.

The sad reality is, that the rules favor those who are older, less educated, and less skilled. If you have higher education, learned skills in the past and have worked at jobs where you sat most of the day, this hinders you from getting on disability. It's not impossible, but it does make it harder...as if the system wasn't hard enough!

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