The Federal Code of Regulations which governs disability claims uses chronological age categories as one factor of consideration when evaluating claims. A claimant’s age can play a significant role in determining whether or not Social Security considers them disabled.
Your Age as a Vocational Factor
Social Security refers to ‘age’ as your chronological age. When deciding whether you are disabled, SSA will consider your chronological age in combination with your residual functional capacity, education and work experience.
SSA does NOT consider your ability to adjust to other work on the basis of your age alone, but they do consider advancing age to be an increasingly limiting factor in a claimant’s ability to make an adjustment to other work.
So, what does this mean in layman’s terms?
It means that SSA uses your chronological age as one factor among many in determining whether you are disabled or not. Since a claimant has to be unemployable for at least 12 continuous months or longer to be ruled disabled, SSA considers how easily a claimant could adapt to or adjust to other work if their current work is too difficult. When considering age, SSA assumes that as you near retirement or advanced age, it becomes more difficult for you to adjust to new skills or new work.
Social Security Age Categories
SSA uses age categories to make determinations. You can find definitions of the main age categories below:
Younger person: A younger person is someone under the age of 50. In general, SSA does not consider that a younger person’s age will seriously affect their ability to adjust to other work. However, in some circumstances, SSA will consider that individuals aged 45 – 49 are more limited in terms of their ability to adjust to new work than individuals who are less than 45.
Person closely approaching advanced age: This age category is for individuals approaching advanced age (50 to 54). If you are in this age category, SSA will consider that your age, along with a severe impairment and limited work experience may seriously affect your ability to adjust to new work.
Person of advanced age: SSA defines a person of advanced age as someone who is age 55 or older. If you are a person of advanced age, SSA will consider your age as a significant factor in terms of your ability to adjust to other work. There are special rules for this age category as well as the final age category which is for persons closely approaching retirement age (age 60 or older).
Your Age Can Impact Your Claim
In our experience, it’s safe to assume that individuals who are aged 50 and older have a greater chance of having their disability claim approved assuming all other qualifying criteria are met. Younger individuals who are trying to prove that they cannot work for the remainder of lives have a heavier burden of proof than older individuals. They not only have to demonstrate that they cannot perform their current job for 12 continuous months or more due to a severe medical impairment; they also have to prove that they cannot adjust to other or different work. This can be difficult. The claimants who are successful typically have extremely severe medical impairments.
Regardless of your age, it’s important to remember that age is only one contributing factor that SSA will consider in terms of your claim.
We have seen strong claims for younger clients and weak claims for older clients. It totally depends upon the individual circumstances at play which is why it’s so important to have a strong advocate on your side. We encourage you to contact us or to consult with another qualified disability lawyer about your claim no matter your age.