Age is a Factor in Your Social Security Disability Case

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), over 25% of today’s 20-year-olds will become disabled before they turn 67. This is an important statistic because 67 is what the SSA considers “full retirement age,” when people can start collecting their retirement benefits. If disability strikes someone before they are prepared or eligible for retirement, the results can be disastrous.

To help in these situations, the SSA offers Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). This insurance is largely work-based, so the longer you have worked before your disability, the better your coverage will be. Because of that, age can be a big issue when trying to claim SSDI benefits. Understanding what the SSA will look for when deciding your case can help you decide whether seeking benefits is worthwhile. So how closely do they look at your age?

How Likely is my Age to Affect my Case?

Age alone is unlikely to significantly affect your case, but it can, and likely will, play a role in the SSA’s decision. Above anything else, your disability and the limitations it places on you will determine whether you can receive benefits or not. But if the nature of your disability or injury is such that work is still a possibility, age is important. In general, the younger you are, the less likely you are to receive benefits. This is because the SSA is more likely to decide that you are able to adjust to other work and do not need immediate assistance. As you come closer to retirement age, it is more likely that possible work adjustments will be ruled out and benefits will be granted. The SSA divides applicants by age into three basic categories:

  • Age 18-49: People within this range are referred to as “younger persons,” and in general would be the least likely to be considered unable to work. However, people from age 45 to 49 are slightly more likely to receive benefits.
  • Age 50-54: People within this range are considered “closely approaching advanced age.” At this age, the SSA is more likely to consider that a severe impairment could limit ability to work.
  • Age 55-67: At this point, the SSA is most likely to decide that your age significantly affects your ability to work. This likelihood increases for those 60+, whom the SSA considers to be “closely approaching retirement age.”

In the graphic below, your likelihood of receiving benefits is broken down into these age groups specified by the SSA. The terms “less limited” and “more limited”  refer to how much the SSA thinks your age limits your ability to work. Keep in mind that these groups are not concrete and would be applied in situations in which it could potentially be decided that you are still able to work. Severe disabilities making work nearly or completely impossible will be held to different standards. 
 Age groups for Social Security Disability Insurance

More information about these age groups and other SSDI requirements can be found here.

I’m Confident I Can Receive Benefits for My Disability. What Else Should I Know?

  • Like we discussed before, SSDI is a work-based program. If it is decided that your disability is limiting enough that you are eligible for benefits, your work history will determine the extent of your coverage. The SSA splits the work year into 4 quarters of 3 months each. If you are over 30, you must have worked at least 20 of the past 40 quarters (or 5 out of the past ten years) before your application is considered.
  • Once you reach age 67, you are ineligible for SSDI. This is because you have reached what the SSA calls “full retirement age.” If you are 67 or over and become disabled, you should apply for retirement benefits instead of SSDI. If you are already receiving SSDI benefits before you turn 67, they will simply be converted to retirement benefits.
  • It is important to remember that while Social Security laws are complex and specific, many of their requirements are not completely set in stone. The SSA leaves themselves room to judge and decide each case individually. With SSDI, the decision will be based on several factors, including the nature of your disability, your work experience, and your age. The most important thing you can personally do is be honest and open about your need for assistance.

If you are living with a disability and think you could qualify for SSDI benefits, submit a free consultation request today and we can work together to get you what you need!


Photo via Flickr