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Does My Age Matter When I’m Trying to Get Social Security Disability Benefits?

Posted By Corey Luedeman - 04.15.21

The older you are, the more likely you are to receive Social Security Disability benefits. This is because it can be difficult for older workers to adjust to different types of work.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) realizes that “vocational adjustment,” or training to learn a new job, is more difficult as you get older. They are more likely to approve disability for older Iowans because of this.

Social Security Administration’s Guidelines on Disability

The SSA has established a set of guidelines that help disability examiners determine whether a person is disabled. This process involves 5 questions that the SSA asks each claimant to determine if a person is disabled.

Two of the questions asked in the process are “Can you do any of your previous types of work?” and “Can you adjust to any other types of work?”

The SSA considers a variety of factors when answering these two questions. Your education, your skills, and your age are all important, as well as your “residual functional capacity,” or RFC.

If you don’t meet a medical impairment listing according to Social Security’s rules, then the SSA will look to something called “the grid” for guidance to determine if you’re disabled.

This grid is a chart with different rules applying to different age brackets and RFC levels. When looking at the grid, the SSA will consider the person’s age, education, skill level, and transferability of these skills to new jobs, and their RFC levels.

What Does Social Security’s “Grid” System Do?

The grid is divided by each of these factors. The SSA divides applicants into these age groups:

  • Younger individuals (18-44)
  • Younger individuals (ages 45-49)
  • Closely approaching advanced age (50-54)
  • Advanced age (age 55 to 59)
  • Closely approaching retirement age (60+)

Education is divided into 4 levels:

  • Illiterate (unable to read or write)
  • Limited education (11th grade or below)
  • High school graduate or more
  • Skilled job education

Skill levels are figured into three types:

  • Unskilled – limits you to a very simple entry-level job.
  • Semi-skilled or skilled, skills not transferable – you may be a skilled worker that does not have skills that transfer well between jobs. For example, if you are an electrician, you are likely not able to teach middle-school math.
  • Semi-skilled or skilled, skills transferable – if you are highly educated and have work skills that are easily transferable to other jobs, then you are less likely to be thought of as disabled.

Residual functional capacity (RFC) levels are broken into 4 levels:

  • Sedentary work (sitting for most of the day)
  • Light work (standing and walking for most of the day, lifting 10 lbs. frequently)
  • Medium work (standing and walking for most of the day, lifting 25 lbs. frequently)
  • Heavy work (standing and walking for most of the day, lifting 50 lbs. frequently)

The rules of the grid tend to favor those who are over 50 and have limited work skills. If you only have mental limitations or limitations related to the environment (like not being able to be exposed to chemicals, dust, or smoke), the grids are less important to your disability ruling. 

While your advanced age can make it easier to get disability benefits, it is not a guarantee. If you have been denied disability benefits, an experienced Iowa Social Security Disability lawyer can fight against this ruling.

RSH Legal offers free, no-obligation case evaluations to Iowans who have been denied disability benefits. To schedule yours, call 1-800-433-0283.

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