Can Younger People Get Disability Benefits?

While there is no doubt that it is more difficult to be approved for Social Security Disability or approved for Supplemental Security Income disability if you are a younger individual, it is not impossible.

Social Security uses a disability guidebook that contains a listing of impairments for all of the body systems and the criteria needed to meet the severity requirements of the various impairment listings. If a person meets or can equal an impairment listing's criteria, they are found disabled whether they are an older or younger adult (there are separate listings for children). It becomes more difficult if a younger person is not able to meet or equal the severity requirements of the impairment listing that deals with their disabling condition.

If an individual does not meet or equal the social security criteria of an impairment listing, their disabling condition is evaluated through a five-step sequential evaluation process that definitely favors older individuals. The five step sequential process begins with a determination as to whether or not the disability claimant is working, and if those earnings are considered substantial gainful work or SGA (a monthly earnings amount that Social Security considers self supporting).

It ends with an evaluation as to whether or not a person can do any past work or other work when their residual functional capacity (what the person is able to do in spite of the limitations of their disabling condition) is considered.

Social Security uses vocational rules that consider a person's age, education, residual functional capacity, and whether or not their job skills could transfer into a job that they could perform with their limitations. And, unfortunately, age is a very important consideration when determining what a person might be able to do.

What do I mean by this? If a person is forty and they are limited to light work--meaning that they can lift ten to twenty pounds--they are more likely to be found not disabled than a person who is fifty-five years old or more who is able to lift ten to twenty pounds.

Generally, medical vocational allowances are more prevalent for individuals who are over fifty and most certainly fifty-five and above. However, there are younger individuals who have residual functional capacities that are so restrictive as to render them unable to perform any of their past work or any other work; thus they can be approved for disability benefits through a medical vocational allowance.

If you are a younger person and you are unable to work at a level that is considered to be SGA due to a physical or mental disability, you should file for disability with Social Security. Do not be discouraged if your initial disability claim is denied or even if your reconsideration appeal is denied; your chances of being approved at a disability hearing are much greater.

Disability claimants, whether younger or older, who appeal their disability claims to an administrative law judge disability hearing are likely to win their case. In fact, sixty percent claimants who are represented and attend disability hearings are approved for disability benefits. This means that a lot of younger people win their disability benefits if they are tenacious about appealing disability denials.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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