As workers get older, disorders, injuries, and illnesses become bigger problems. While most Americans are aware of Social Security disability benefits for those who cannot work, not as many realize that special considerations apply for workers who are over age 50. These rules may make it easier to get the assistance you need. At Nikolaus & Hohenadel, LLP, we fight to win the maximum disability benefits for our clients. We’re ready to help you today.
Understanding Social Security’s “Grid Rules”
When the Social Security Administration (SSA) receives an application for disability benefits, the case is assigned to a reviewer. One of the first things this individual will do is compare your symptoms to those listed in the so-called Blue Book. The Blue Book is a list of impairments considered severe enough to qualify an applicant for disability benefits. If the SSA determines that your condition does not match one of its disability listings, however, you can still qualify for benefits based on use of the “grid rules.”
The grid rules are a series of tables that take four factors into account to decide whether a worker is disabled. Those factors are:
Residual functional capacity (RFC). The RFC is an assessment used to determine the most work someone can perform in light of that person’s physical or mental limitations. It considers how much you can work, and for how long, given your current health situation.
The RFC takes information from the worker’s medical records into account, such as diagnoses, treatments, and limitations. Then, the SSA assigns the worker one of five “exertional” levels:
- Very heavy
Education. The less education a worker has, the easier it may be to acquire disability benefits. For purposes of the grids, the SSA divides applicants into the following categories:
- Literate or illiterate
- Limited education or less (11th grade or below)
- High school graduate or more
- Any recent education that trained you for a skilled job
Previous work experience. The SSA will review your past relevant work experience and assign one of the following categories:
In making this assessment, the SSA may consider the description of your work, how it is categorized by the Department of Labor, and how much training was required for it.
Transferability of skills. Finally, the SSA wants to know to what degree your work skills from past jobs can transfer to new, similar positions. If a worker has few transferable skills, or it would take substantial training to acquire the necessary skills to work a similar job, it will be easier for him or her to receive disability benefits.
How Age Affects The Grid Rules
The grid rules are complicated, and you should consult an experienced Social Security disability lawyer to learn more about them. However, as a person ages past 50, the above criteria will weigh more in his or her favor.
For example, with respect to RFC, an older worker may still be able to qualify for disability despite being able to work at one of the above-listed exertional levels. Although every applicant’s case must be considered individually, these are some of the general trends that come with age:
- If you are between age 50 and 54, you may qualify even if you can perform sedentary labor
- If you are between age 55 and 59, you may qualify even if you can perform light labor
- If you are between age 60 and 64, you may qualify even if you can perform medium labor
Your age may also benefit you with respect to the other factors. For instance, not only will SSA consider your level of education, but also how much time it has been since you received it (which of course is greater after age 50). Limited or no work experience in the years leading up to your application will also benefit you. And having fewer transferable skills makes it more likely that an older work is eligible for benefits.
Finally, it’s possible that you could have non-exertional limitations to the type of work you can do. These could be things like:
- Problems that affect mental functioning, such as depression
- Limitations not related to strength, such as problems using your hands
- Environmental limitations, such as problems being exposed to excess noise, temperature, or air contaminants
Why It’s Important To Have a Social Security Disability Attorney for Age 50 and Older
Although Social Security’s disability rules lean in favor of applicants over 50, you should never assume your age will automatically qualify you. If the SSA believes you can do other, similar work, in light of your age and other factors, your request may be rejected.
It’s possible for the SSA to fail to adequately consider the relevant factors. Your case reviewer may, for example, consider your RFC and determine that you are able to do sedentary work. But the reviewer may not take into account whether your skills are transferable. Determinations like these can be subjective, but they may ultimately jeopardize your application.
A knowledgeable Social Security disability benefits attorney will examine all of your medical and work-related records and make sure SSA is fairly evaluating them. If there are limitations that may have been overlooked, or criteria that were not correctly applied to your case, your attorney can contest the SSA’s decision. The right attorney will know how to appeal an adverse decision, including the necessary forms, procedures, and evidence that will support your application.
Contact Our Lancaster Social Security Disability Attorney for Age 50 and Older Individuals
Applying for Social Security disability can be daunting. On top of dealing with the challenges that arise from your disability, you’re probably anxious wondering how you’re going to support yourself and your family. The disability lawyers of Nikolaus & Hohenadel, LLP, are here to help. Give us a call today to get started on your case.