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Is age a big Factor in the Social Security Disability Process?

Age is certainly a factor in the social security disability process (and SSI process, since claims in both disability programs are medically evaluated in the exact same manner---the non-medical criteria is what sets SSD and SSI apart). However, it is not as big a factor as many claimants might assume. How does a claimant's age figure into the process at all? In a couple of different ways.

First, claims for disability determination purposes, are segregated by age. What do I mean by this? Simply that when a disability examiner evaluates a claimant's case to see whether or not they will meet or equal a listing (in the social security disability list of impairments), they will look to either the childhood listings or the adult listings. For some impairments, the disability criteria for children is markedly different than that for adults.

Also, for individuals who cannot be approved on the basis of a listing (most individuals who are approved are actually not approved because they have met a listing), but, instead, are granted an approval through the sequential evaluation process, the criteria is again different for children versus adults.

In essence, the difference between the two boils down to this: adults are evaluated on the basis of whether or not they can peform work activity (either past work or other work), while children are evaluated on the basis of whether or not they can engage in age-appropriate activities.

What is the second way that age is given consideration with regard to the disability process? This occurs in adult claims in which claimants may not be awarded by meeting or equaling a listing in the blue book, but instead may be awarded by being given something known as a medical vocational allowance.

A medical vocational allowance is an approval (and denial) method by which a disability examiner or disability judge will review a claimant's medical treatment history and work history. The purpose is to determine--based on a claimant's job skills, type of work performed, education, and current mental or physical limitations--whether or not a claimant can A) return to some type of work they have done in the past or B) perform some type of other work for which they might be suited based on the factors we just mentioned plus the additional factor of age.

How does age figure into it? The older a person is, the less likely they will be considered to be able to transition to other forms of work. This is, of course, a practical consideration since older workers will typically have fewer employment opportunities available to them. It is also practical due to the fact that, being older and having a much longer work history, they may possibly retain job skills that are outdated or less valued in the present national economy.

Having said this, though, as a disability examiner, I found it to be the case that age is not a crucial factor in the majority of social security disability cases and SSI disability cases. In fact, age will seldom ever be the deciding factor in a case except when a claimant has either attained age 50, or is age 55 or older. Why is this? Because when a person turns fifty, the medical vocational rules that govern disability decisions become noticeably more favorable. And when a person turns age 55, the rules become even more favorable.

Return to:  Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions

Related pages:

What Should I Expect at my Social Security Disability Review if I am working part-time?
Filing for Disability - Blind in one eye and a Learning Disability, Do I have a Case?
How long does it take to hear from SSI?
The amount of back pay that you receive
If You Get Social Security Disability or SSI, Will Your Dependents Get A Check?
How to file for disability, tips to start
What Are The Odds of Winning A Social Security Disability Appeal?
What Conditions Qualify For Social Security Disability?
Check Amount on Social Security Disability Award Letter
Filing for disability with facet arthritis
Social Security Disability decisions by judges and examiners
Can you get SSI for a mental disability if there is a trust fund?
How hard is it to qualify for disability?
Can I lose my disability benefits?
Will a Disability Lawyer decline taking your disability case?
Picking the right disability attorney
Free Legal Representation for Social Security Disability or SSI claims
How to file for disablity in Nevada

Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:

Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI

These pages provide answers to basic questions about pursuing disability benefits

What mental problems qualify for disability?
SSI disability status
How to prove you qualify for disability
Qualifying for disability eligibility requirements
How Does Social Security Decide If You Are Disabled
How much does disability pay?
Factors involved in Winning SSDI or SSI Claims
Applying for disability with Degenerative Disc Disease
How long to get a Social Security decision letter?
What Does Social Security Consider To Be a Disability?
The amount of back pay that you receive
Social Security medical disability determination process
If You Get Approved For SSDI Will You Also Get Medicare?
How long can you receive SSI or Social Security disability benefits?
How Long Does A Social Security Disability Appeal Take?
How Long Does It Take To Get Disability Benefits When You First File?
Can you work if you get SSI disability?
Social Security Disability attorney fees
Am I eligible to receive disability benefits?
What are the non medical requirements for disability
How to get SSI
Approved for disability benefits
SSD SSI disability hearing decision