May 18, 2011

Will my age be a factor in my Social Security Disability Claim?

Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney Scott D. Lewis represents a variety of Indiana claimants applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  His clients vary in age ranging from youths to adults in their early 60s.  Many times he discusses with clients the effects their age may have on their SSDI or SSI claim.  Although the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not specifically deny disabled individuals for reasons of age, it is Scott Lewis’ opinion that age can be a relevant factor in determining disability.

How does my age affect my ability to obtain SSDI or SSI disability benefits?  A Social Security disability claimant’s age is certainly considered when applying for disability benefits.  One way the claimant’s age may be a deciding factor is that in order to receive SSDI benefits, a person must have earned enough work credits to qualify for this disability program.  Therefore, if a disabled claimant is 21 years old and has not worked long enough to earn enough work credits to qualify for the SSDI program, he/she will not be awarded SSDI benefits.  In summary, a younger adult is unable to fulfill the work credit requirements due to a lack of years in the workforce. Although these individuals are unable to qualify for the SSDI program, these individuals may qualify for the SSI program which does not require the earned work credits.

In Attorney Scott Lewis’ opinion, as disability claimants reach their 50s, they are more likely to have their disability claim approved by the SSA.  The SSA believes that as people age, their ability to transition into new employment areas diminishes. Older claimants become less adaptable and less able to switch to a different job in order to cope with health problems. For example, a person disabled due to a foot injury may cause a younger adult in his/her 30s to switch to a job in which he/she can sit down most of the time, but may disable a person in their late 50s because they are  unable to adjust to a different type of work.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has developed a medical-vocational guideline known as the “vocational grid” to help SSA employees in determining disability outside of evaluation of medical condition.  These rules were developed to help the SSA focus less on medical problems and more on the claimant’s age, education, and work background. The premise of the grid rules is simply that the SSA recognizes that as individuals get older, they will have a more difficult time finding a job.  Specifically, Social Security recognizes that employers are less likely to offer an entry level job to a man or woman aged 50 or older.  In addition, the less education or fewer job skills the disability claimant has, the harder it will be to find employment.

Even though disability lawyer Scott Lewis finds it easier to win an adult over the age of 50 disability benefits, this doesn’t change the fact that a large percentage of claimants who are awarded disability benefits are in their 30s or younger. Regardless of a disability applicant’s age, if the SSA determines that the claimant’s residual functional capacity (physical, mental, or both) has prevented, or will prevent, him/her from engaging in substantial gainful activity for 12 months or longer, that individual will be approved for benefits if he/she meets or equals a medical listing.

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