What does my age have to do with getting disability benefits from Social Security?
See when and why your age is part of Social Security’s evaluation process for getting Social Security disability benefits.
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. How education and work experience can provide the necessary ability to move into a new occupation is evaluated differently for individuals under age fifty, for those age fifty through fifty-four and for those age fifty-five and older. 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.
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?