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 benefits 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.
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 Disabling Impairments. Neither of these reviews considers your age. If your condition does not meet 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
If you can’t do the any of the kinds of work you have done in the past, 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. Education and work experience is considered in assessing the ability to move into a new occupation. At age fifty, age is also considered in determining the ability to sustain work in a new occupation and at age fifty-five, more advanced age in given even greater consideration in determining whether a claimant can move into a new occupation.
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?