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What does my age have to do with getting disability benefits from Social Security?

By   /  March 3, 2016  /  22 Comments

See when and why your age is part of Social Security’s evaluation process for getting Social Security disability benefits.

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Age and the Social Security Disability Evaluation

Disability Determination Services, the state agency that Social Security hires to determine whether you are disabled, evaluates your claim to decide whether you meet the Social Security qualifications for getting disability by moving through a progressive set of requirements that are always applied in the same order. Your claim can be approved or denied at any one of the steps. If you are found to be disabled in one of the earlier steps, then age is not a factor in the decision.

When Age is Not a Factor

The first evaluation, after assessing any work you are doing, is to determine whether you have a severe condition. If you do, your claim is then evaluated to see if your condition meets, or is comparable to the List of Impairments. Neither of these reviews considers your age.

If you do meet the severity or List of Impairments tests, then your claim moves to an assessment of whether you are able to do work that you have done before. If the answer is “yes,” then you are not disabled, regardless of your age.

When Age Becomes a Factor

Your age comes into play only if it is found that you cannot do work you have done in the past. If you are age fifty or older and cannot go back to occupations you have formerly performed, your claim will be approved. On the other hand, if you are under age fifty and can’t do the any of the kinds of work you have done in the past, then your claim goes on to the next step, which is to evaluate whether you can do a type of work that you have not done previously.

Why Age?

You may wonder why Social Security law makes an age distinction. The answer falls somewhere close to the old adage, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

If you would like more information about the Social Security disability evaluation process, please see our article “How Does the Social Security Administration Apply Social Security Disability Laws to Determine If I Am Disabled?”

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  1. Rebekah says:

    Hello Kay, I’m not sure if I am posting this question under the right article or not. I spoke to my dds examiner a couple of days ago and he stated that my claim was referred to VR. Maryland is a Ticket to Work state and referrals aren’t supposed to be sent to VR. Do you know if this is an indication that my claim was denied or approved?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Rebekah,

      I have not heard of a referral for vocational services by DDS. I wonder if she meant that she was getting a vocational expert’s opinion on your ability to work in other occupations in order to make a decision. You might want to call to clarify.


  2. Beth says:

    Good Morning,

    My ex husband, who has lived back in the family home for 7 years due to his inability to work full time and support a place of his own. (We have an 11 year old and I do what I have to do to make life work so she has both parents despite us not being together).

    He has severe bilateral shoulder arthritis. He also has cervical and right hip OA. Over the last 7 years he has worked part time as able, making less than $8K a year, until this last June, when he had his left shoulder totally replaced, he is still on full work restrictions.

    He has acquired carpal tunnel like nerve injury with his left hand since surgery, his hand swells up BAD several times daily (looks like it may pop open it’s so huge!) Numbness etc.. He will be having CTS surgery in the next 60 days.

    This January he will have his right total shoulder replaced as well. The two shoulder surgeries alone will be about 12 months of no work. (Per his doctor). His doctor stated he would allow him to go back temporarily in September, restricted to a couple of days, 4 hours each with no pushing, pulling or lifting… to hold his “job” (part time stocker at a discount grocery store). My concern is he will push, pull and lift anyway and hurt himself more. That is what his job entails. To try to keep a part time position open seems fruitless…

    He applied last year and was denied. He did not appeal. I applied for him again last April just before his 1st replacement.. SS received medical records at the end of June. When we called Friday they said all documents are with them and have not yet been reviewed.

    He will be 46 in September, no high school diploma. Unable to run a cash register without extreme sweating and the paperwork to cash out always requires someone else to complete because he don’t understand it, he can make change just fine, but using the register is confusing and the paperwork is out of his league. He don’t know how to use a computer… or even a smart phone – he still uses the basic bar phone.

    He has always done manual labor, never had any kind of office job. Of course, like everyone else here, I think he should be eligible between the OA, shoulder replacements and lack of education/work history.

    Now that he has actually had the 1st replacement and the other is set up… do you think he has a chance in heck to get awarded? I have supported all of us for years, and will continue my job for many more years, it sure would be nice to have a little assistance with any household bill… we do not plan on ever getting married again. He is my best friend, but we have lived in separate rooms for 13 years, he lived out of the home 1 year but could not support himself, we have been divorced for 9 years. (Married in 2001, divorced in 2007). …

    Is there anything else we can do to get him approved?

    The wait is horrible!
    Thanks for any input you can provide!!

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Beth,

      If you have not already done so, write up what you told me about your husband’s difficulty in running a cash register, lack of ability with paperwork and numbers, and lack of computer or even phone skills.


  3. Tracey Emory says:

    Dear Kay , I filed for ssd Aug 31,2015 on line was sent packet in mail with in a week wanting to know more about job duties etc sent that right back . and then apparently they sent me a letter end of September to call and make appointment to apply for ssi but apparently that got lost in mail n didn’t receive it till beginning of January 2016 so made appointment and was told to bring all my income info etc . went to appointment on January 27 th 2016 ( before that appointment every time I checked my status it said it was at DDS in my state ) . There was a few extra thing my case worker wanted like proof of rent etc . That day I also added more doctors n medications got everything she asked for and took it right to my local SSA office the person that took that information said that I now have a new case worker . I am 51 yrs old have done the same type of work for over 20 yrs . And still when I check my status it’s still at DDS . So my questions are why is it still at dDS . Does it look favorable because they r looking into my assets already and that they asked me to come in with all that information ? And is it taking longer because I added more medical info ?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Tracey,

      The Disability Determination Service (DDS) makes the medical decision on both your Social Security Disability (SSDI) claim and your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim. It sounds as if the interview you had in the local office was to check to complete your initial application for SSI, which involves financial screening.

      Submitting additional medical information to support your claim will not necessarily slow things down. However, because your claim has been pending a medical decision for a long time, I suggest you call the DDS to ask whether the information submitted in January has reached the claims examiner and to inquire about whether he or she has a realistic expectation of when a decision will be made on your claim which has pended since August.


  4. Gail W says:

    Hi Kay… I have been waiting since 2012..been certified to March 2017…I was approved for SSI…looks their trying to approve me for SSD instead…a letter of payment was posted but I believe got lost in the mail… I did go to two doctors by the state per the Determination Office for final look over I guess(neck and small injuries)…So how not working does it take to receive payment? Thank you

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Gail,

      Usually Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits begin within two months after medical approval. If you are already receiving SSI, the SSDI back benefits will reduced by SSI already received for the same months. Ongoing, SSI will be reduced by the amount of SSDI you receive. Given that a letter was lost in the mail, it might be advisable to set up direct deposit to a bank, if you haven’t already.


  5. Joe says:

    I had my ssd hearing on Jan 6,2016,I think it went well. I answered all the alj and my attorney questions, but a the end the judge waived the VE testimony. My attorney said this is a good sign.I am a 55 yr old man with a plate in my neck due to a injury at work in 2013.Do you think I won?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Joe,

      I think your appeal may be approved. If not, the absence of vocational expert testimony could be grounds for appeal.


  6. STAR M PACKNETT says:

    If my case for ssi is being processed will I still have a payee in the computer already??

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Star,

      The payee information would probably be entered at the same time as payment processing was in process or being completed.


  7. Victoria cox says:

    Hello my name Victoria I went to video hearing my lawyer said that I will probly have change win on my mental side I suffer from anexty depression bipolar will I when and how long take for judge

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Victoria,

      I can not predict whether your claim will be approved. The judge is supposed to make a decision within sixty days, but sometimes it takes longer.


      • thirza says:

        Hi my name is thirza I live in Oklahoma. I have already been denied three times. I do have an attorney we are in the a.c. process now my attorney filed the appeal in March. How much longer do I possibly have to hear something? I filed April of 2013 got denied in August appealed in August got denied again in October 2013. Appealed again for an Alj hearing everything went well at court I have my doctors stating I am unable to work the ve even said I couldn’t work. My decision for the court hearing was denied the judge stated he found me fully disabled but said it was not his place to state if I could hold a job or not. I thought that is why the ve was present to determine that? It’s already been almost five months since the appeal for the a.c. any idea how much longer it might take.

  8. Susan says:

    I applied like in 2006 and was denied however I have done the best that I can do but now have reoccurring brain tumor and I do not have regular doc because I do not have insurance I make about 900 a month on a good month cause finding the memory is a problem in holding a job and functioning normally can I apply with out all the documentation I had last time I have all of that information but I do not habe current docs to get the same kind of doc and can I file from 2006 when I was originaly denied because I have gone from being a tip manager to doing customer service at home because of my condition

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Susan,

      You can apply without extensive medical records. Presumably you have a brain scan or other medical documentation of your recurrent brain tumor or you would not know the diagnosis. Give them everything you have, including the 2006 records. The 2006 denial will probably not be reopened, but the information from that time will provide background. Explain that you do not have insurance or sufficient income to get much care.

      If you are working for wages and your gross wages (or net profit if you are self-employed)have been below the amounts shown below then your work has not been Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)and will not affect your claim. You need to claim a date of disability that is later than the date you claimed before–even by a few days, but if you had an extended period (more than six months) of earning at SGA levels, claim the date you started to earn less than SGA.

      In calendar year 2014, $1070

      In calendar year 2013, $1040

      In calendar year 2012, $1010

      In calendar year 2011, $1000

      In calendar year 2010, $1000

      In calendar year 2009, $980

      In calendar year 2008, $940

      In calendar year 2007, $900

      In calendar year 2006, $860

      If you are denied, get an attorney and appeal. You do not have to pay any legal fees up front and you will pay attorney fees only if you are approved for benefits. Social Security law sets the amount your attorney can charge and the Social Security Administration pays the attorney directly from your retroactive award at the time they send your back pay to you. So, it’s all very easy and risk-free.



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