Social Security Disability Rules After Age 50

Social Security Disability Rules After Age 50

When you turn 50 it becomes easier to qualify for disability under either of Social Security’s disability programs: Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income. At age 50 and above, you may qualify even if a vocational expert says you can do sedentary work.

How to qualify for disability after 50

Social Security denies around 70% of applications for disability. While many of those are won on appeal, the appeals process can take months or years. Fortunately, after you turn 50, your chances of being approved go up significantly.

When Social Security looks at your case, they don’t just want to know if you can still do your last job. They want to know if you can do any job that exists in significant numbers. For example, if you used to work as a waiter but can no longer work as a waiter, Social Security will still deny your application if it thinks there are other jobs you can perform. However, once you turn 50, Social Security applies different rules to those it believes can only do work they call “sedentary.” If you are over 50 and can only do sedentary work, you’ll likely be approved even if a vocational expert identifies “sedentary” jobs they think you could perform. (unless you have some recent education that allows you to transfer into another industry and perform “skilled” work.)

Social Security Job Categories: skilled vs. semi-skilled vs. unskilled work

Social Security classifies jobs as “skilled work,” “semi-skilled work,” or “unskilled work.” While skilled work requires qualifications or training, maybe a license - unskilled work is the type of job that requires little or no use of complex decision-making and requires little or no training. Semi-skilled are all the jobs in between. Whether your last job was unskilled, semi-skilled, or skilled - if you lack the training, education, and qualifications to transfer to some other skilled work the GRIDS for those over age 50 tend to work in their favor.

Education Works Against Disability

Education, especially recent education, may make it harder to win.

Education matters

There is an exception to the over-50 rule described above. When applying the GRIDS to those over 50, Social Security considers the applicant’s education. If you have some recent education that allows you to transfer into another industry and perform “skilled” work then your application will be denied. On the other hand, if you don’t have transferrable job skills and can only do only sedentary work, you should be approved. Unfortunately, it is not always clear whether you have transferrable skills. If you did not complete high school, it does not matter. Social Security will not consider the transferability of your skills, you will be approved on the grids if you can only do sedentary work.

For those with high school degrees and more education, Social Security will consider the transferability of your skills. To make that decision they’ll look at two things:

  1. how recently you completed your education; and
  2. the type of jobs your education prepared you for.

If your education (including vocational or other training) ended more than 5 years ago, it will not be considered recent enough to allow you to enter a different profession.

The older you are the harder it is to find new work. SSA Advanced Age Categories

Social Security recognizes that as you get older, your age may limit your ability to change professions and do something different. They consider that difficulty to increase the closer you get to retirement age. From age 50 through 54 Social Security considers you to be “closely approaching advanced age.” With that designation, you might qualify under the Social Security Grids.

Where to get help if you’re over 50

If you’re in Alabama, over 50, and need help with your Social Security disability application or appeal contact Disability Alabama for help today. Disability Alabama is located centrally in Tuscaloosa but serves the State from Florence and Huntsville to Dothan and Mobile. At Disability Alabama you’ll be able to speak with an attorney about your case - not just a paralegal.

Jason P. Bailey