Is an applicant’s age considered when applying for Social Security disability benefits?
Yes, age is one of the most important factors in an individual’s Social Security disability claim. Generally speaking, the older an individual is the easier it is to qualify for benefits.
Age is especially a factor when a claimant does not meet a listing of an impairment(s). The listings are the medical criteria that will automatically qualify a claimant without any consideration to age, past work, skill level or education. You can find these listings on the Social Security website.
Many claimants do not meet a listing, but once an individual turns 50, a different set of rules and regulations come into play. These rules consider an individual’s residual functional capacity (or RFC), which refers to the maximum you can do in spite of your physical and/or psychological impairments. Also considered after the age of 50 is a claimant’s work history, education, and skill level. At the age of 55 another factor is considered, and that is how much vocational adjustment there would be to another kind of job. This different set of rules and regulations in effect lower the bar for a claimant to qualify for disability at age 50, then lower the bar further at age 55.
This can admittedly be complicated and confusing, so let me give you a simple example. Recently I helped a client who was 57 years old and spent his entire adult life as an electrician. My client developed a significant lack of functionality in his hands and was unable to use the tools and do the fingering as is required of an electrician. Additionally, he had serious back issues that had developed over years of doing physical work. My client did not meet a listing. However, because he was over 55, other factors were considered, such as the vocational adjustment needed to perform an easier type of work. He was not expected to learn a new job that was sedentary in nature and less physical, as most sedentary jobs would require a vocational adjustment that would not be reasonable for his age. My client was found disabled.