If you are over the age of 50 and have a disability that prevents you from working, you may have a much easier time securing disability benefits than you would if you were younger. While disability benefits over 50 are certainly not automatic, in many cases, if you are over the age of 50 you may find it less difficult to obtain physical impairment disability benefits or mental illness disability benefits. There are no automatic rules for disabled individuals between the ages of 50 and 54, although those in this age group who are unable to perform any work that involves limited physical activity could have improved chances of being approved for SSD benefits.
If you are between the ages of 55 and 60, your age, past work experience, education level, and performance in less demanding work will be analyzed, although if your health issues are serious, you may be granted disability benefits at first application. The SSA could potentially appoint a vocational expert who will testify about your specific capabilities in the workplace setting. If you are over the age of 60, the disability rules tend to be significantly more flexible, particularly if you are unable to perform any type of work. This determination of disability also increases the likelihood of your being able to draw complete SS retirement benefits at the age of 62.
If you are over the age of 50 and applying for disability benefits, your application can benefit greatly from speaking to a Sharry & Monfette SSD attorney in the greater Boston area, or across the state of Massachusetts. The greater Boston area is a place steeped in tradition, yet is also full of educated, driven, forward-thinking residents. Our firm embraces growth and change while remaining a part of the tradition. We are extremely protective of our clients while remaining compassionate, humble, family-oriented, and client-focused. If you want an exceptional client experience with solid results, Sharry & Monfette, LLP is the law firm for you.
How Do Vocational Factors Affect Your Disability Benefits Over 50?
Vocational factors cover a wide variety of information in the context of long-term disability benefit claims through SSD. Your education, your age, the physical and cognitive duties associated with the job you had when you became disabled, your work history, your education and training, any job skills you have obtained during your work career, surveys from the labor market, and vocational expert reports all come into play when you apply for disability benefits over 50.
In many cases, the focus on disability benefits revolves squarely around the medical aspect of these claims. This includes your medical condition or conditions, the resulting symptoms of those conditions, and the restrictions and limitations those symptoms cause for you. While the medical aspect remains important for disability benefits over 50, the vocational aspect and supporting vocational evidence are equally important.
Vocational evidence matters because of the manner in which long-term disability policies have traditionally defined disability. These definitions include “own” occupation, and “any” occupation. “Own” occupation definition asks whether your specific medical condition has made you unable to perform the basic duties of the job you were doing at the time you became disabled, both physically and cognitively. “Any” occupation definition asks whether your medical condition has made you unable to perform the basic duties of any job.
The “any” definition may consider gainful occupation that allows you to earn from 60-80 percent of the salary you made prior to your disability. As you can see, having a medical condition that results in some functional impairments is not always enough, rather those impairments must prevent you from performing the duties of your own or any occupation, depending on the definition and requirements. To determine whether you would be able to perform another occupation, your age, education, and job history come into place as vocational evidence.
Under vocational evidence, your prior occupation and the specific duties that occupation required become relevant. A simple job title may not fully explain your job and what it entailed. Vocational evidence considers the following:
- Age—your age matters when applying for SS disability benefits. The SSA recognizes there are more factors than a person’s physical condition that can affect the ability to work. Older workers are less likely to be able to return to school to train for a new position and may find mastering new skills more difficult. Older workers may also face age-related discrimination in the workforce. Social Security considers those who are 50-54 to be “approaching advanced age,” those from 55 to 60 are considered “advanced age,” and those who are between 60 and 65 are considered to be approaching retirement age. While SSA places a high value on education and skills—regardless of age—the rules are more lenient for older applicants. As an example, a high school graduate with a history of unskilled work who is between the ages of 45 and 49 who performs sedentary work would be expected to find another type of sedentary work they could perform. An applicant between 50 and 60 might not be expected to find another type of sedentary work because of their age and inability to seek education and training.
- Education—Vocational evidence considers education in the same way it considers age. While having only a high school education makes little difference in those under the age of 50 who are seeking SSD benefits, if you are 50 or older, have only a high school education, and your prior employment provided you no skills for other jobs, then the SSA may determine that at your age you cannot be expected to seek higher education in order to secure a different type of employment.
- Job History—Job history comes into play when you apply for SSD benefits. The Social Security Administration looks at your job history to determine whether your job history allows you to easily transition into another type of job that your disability allows you to do. However, for those 50 and older, job history is not as important. Those over 50 will be given extra latitude under the thinking that switching from the type of job you have done up to this point—possibly for three decades or more—is much more difficult for those over the age of 50, since it would likely involve more training and/or more education.
As an example of vocational evidence for disability benefits over 50, assume a 30-year-old construction worker suffers a back injury that prevents him or her from continuing in the construction industry. SSA will likely determine that due, this individual can obtain additional education/training/skills that will allow him or her to secure another type of work. If that person was 50 or older, obtaining that education, training, or skills is not considered nearly as doable.
What is the Medical-Vocational GRID?
SSA uses medical-vocational rules when determining whether applicants of a specific age should be found disabled, known as the GRID. The GRID takes several issues into account when determining whether the claimant is disabled. These issues include the educational level attained by the individual, the level of skill required in the individual’s last job, the individual’s RFC, and whether any prior skills can transfer to a new job.
Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) is a detailed assessment prepared by the SSA assigning a level of work based on any exertional (strength-related) limitations you may have. Your RFC is the most you can on a sustained basis, such as being able to lift 30 pounds and walk for six hours per day. The five RFC levels are: sedentary, light, medium, heavy, and very heavy. The RFC can also discuss non-exertional limitations that restrict your ability to do work-related activities that are not a part of the GRID but can be helpful if the GRID says you are not disabled.
For the purpose of the GRID, SSA divides educational levels into these categories:
- Unable to read or write
- 11th-grade education or below
- High school graduate
- At least a high school education and recent education that trained you for a skilled job
- High school graduate or higher but does provide entry into skilled work
The GRID classifies your past relevant work as unskilled, semi-skilled, or skilled. With no relevant work experience, the GRID will likely deem you disabled, particularly for those over 50. When using the GRID, the SSA will find the table for your age group that discusses your RFC level, then the row that describes your prior work experience and education level. Based on those factors, the third column of the GRID will show the decision the SSA will make on your behalf.
How Contacting an Experienced SSD Attorney from Sharry & Monfette, LLP Can Help
Although our law firm is smaller, our knowledge and shared core values make us a force to be reckoned with. Beyond what we know about our client cases, we know about their everyday lives—their families, and their goals for the future. Our Social Security Disability clients can always count on us to hear them, advocate for them, counsel them, and protect them at every turn. We truly make a difference by delivering positive outcomes and an exceptional client experience. If you are struggling to obtain disability benefits over 50, contact our offices today.