Laura Holland: Hello, I’m Laura Holland. I’m the disability attorney here at Gardberg & Kemmerly in Mobile, Alabama, and I want to talk a little bit today about age determination and why age matters when you’re applying for Social Security Disability. With Social Security, they use tables of medical-vocational rules to decide whether your physical impairment claims should be allowed or denied, basically granted or denied, based on a combination of how much work you can do, your age, your education and your work experience. What I’m going to focus on today is how age impacts that decision.
Laura Holland: Age is broken down into four categories for Social Security Disability. The first is 18 to 49, that’s the younger individual age category. 50 to 54 is the category that they call closely approaching advanced age. 55 to 59 is the category they call advanced age, and then 60 or older is what they call closely approaching retirement age, whatever retirement age may be for you. The ages have changed; it varies between 65 and 67 at this point.
Laura Holland: The higher age category that you go into, it changes a little bit how they look at what you’re able to do as far as your past work. The more restrictions you have at any particular age, the greater chance is that you will be found disabled. For example, a 50 year old, if the judge finds that this person is limited to sedentary work, would only be able to do a sit-down job. If all of their past work was light work, then they would be considered disabled, because at 50 you can’t make that transition into sedentary work if all you’ve ever done is something like a light job where you’re on your feet all day or having to lift and carry greater than 20 pounds.
Laura Holland: But another example, on the other side of that same coin really, a 25 year old, if they’re limited to sedentary work and all of their work has been light in the past, you will not be granted benefits because you were in that 18 to 49 age category. If you were in that age category, you can only really be granted benefits if they find that you’re not able to do any type of work at all on a full-time sustained basis. So that 18 to 49 age category, that is the toughest age category, but it’s by no means impossible to be granted benefits at that age. It just changes the way that the judges look at things changes as you enter into each higher age category.
Laura Holland: Really, the limitation of less than sedentary, if you were at any age level, you’re going to be granted your benefits if they find you can’t do any type of work on a full-time sustained basis. But really what the point of what I’m talking about today is age and how those categories, the 18 to 49, 50 to 54, 55 to 59, and 60 and older, the barrier gets lower. The barrier breaks down a little bit as you move into each age category. So just know that that is something that the judges are looking at. That’s something that the Disability Determination Service is looking at. They’re looking at your age. They’re also looking at what type of work you did in the past. They look at all of those things together to figure out how those limitations, your physical limitations would affect you in going back to your previous work or doing any other type of work.
Laura Holland: Another note that I would like to make is just, if you are less than six months from your next birthday, say you are 54-1/2, the judge may look at that and may go ahead and say, “Well, you’re close enough to 55 that we can look at it as if you’re 55 right now.” That doesn’t always happen, but that is something to keep in mind. If you’re within six months of that next age category, the judge or the disability determination service may just kind of move you into that category and say that you’re close enough and apply those rules in that way. But age does matter as far as Social Security is concerned, and just be aware of those age categories and know that it does get, things do change as you move into the age categories.
Laura Holland: If you’ve been denied and you’re 54, don’t be discouraged to file again. Because once you hit 55, you’re in a different age category. They may be looking at your clients completely differently. So just keep that in mind as you go through the Social Security process, as you decide whether you want to go through the Social Security Disability process. Can always contact us and ask us questions here at Gardberg & Kemmerly. Our phone number is (251) 343-1111, or you can go onto our website at GardbergLaw.com. Thank you.