How age affects your disability application

If you are 50 years old or older when applying for Social Security disability, it may be easier for you to get approved for disability benefits than it is for a younger person. This is because the Social Security Administration (SSA) knows it can be harder for an older person to learn a new job skill or to make the transition into a new work place. The SSA refers to this as making a “vocational adjustment.”

To account for the difficulty older claimants may have making vocational adjustments, the SSA has something called the “grid rules” it uses to decide some disability claims. The grid rules are one way you can get approved for disability benefits through a medical-vocational allowance. Social Security generally uses the grid rules (commonly referred to as the “grids”) only after it has determined that you can’t do the jobs you’ve done in the recent past.

These grid rules use the following factors to determine whether an applicant is disabled:

  • applicant’s age
  • applicant’s education level
  • the skill level of the applicant’s past work
  • whether the applicant learned any skills that can be used in a different job, and
  • the applicant’s residual functional capacity (RFC).

For the purposes of the grids, the SSA divides applicants into the following age groups:

  • younger individuals (18 through 49)
  • closely approaching advanced age (50 to 54)
  • advanced age (55 and over), and
  • closely approaching retirement age (60 and over).