Under 50 Years Old?

December 7, 2015

Here is a little secret about qualifying for Social Security disability benefits: The younger you are, the harder it can be to win your case. The most important factor Social Security uses in awarding disability benefits is the severity of a mental or physical impairment and to what extent that impairment interferes with an individual’s ability to work. However, age is not far behind as an important deciding factor. Why? Because the Social Security Administration (SSA) applies a basic idea that as we age, it becomes harder and harder to change careers.

For example, let’s say a 56-year-old bricklayer who has only done tough, manual labor his whole life develops a bad back and can no longer handle the rigors of his job. He could work at an office job where he sits down and doesn’t have to do any heavy lifting, but at this point in his life, he probably will not be able to learn the skills necessary for that office job. SSA rules recognize this fact and they divide workers into three different age groups and apply different criteria to each.

Younger individuals

Anyone under the age of 50 is considered a “younger individual” by SSA standards. In their eyes a young person is still able to learn how to do a completely new job. Let’s take our example above, but this time let’s say the bricklayer is not 56 but 43 when he is injured. SSA is likely to deny his claim because, in their estimation, he could—with some training—learn how to do an office job.

At the Nash Disability Law, we often see claimants under 50 years old who offer counter-arguments like:

  • I don’t know how to use a computer.
  • I can’t pass a physical.
  • As soon as I tell my job that I have a disability, I’ll be fired.
  • Is Social Security going to find me that job?
  • I was making $25/hour, and there is no way I could live on a job that pays less.

As far as SSA is concerned, all of these arguments are irrelevant. Many jobs don’t require you to use a computer and don’t require a physical. Firing a person just for having a disability may be illegal. Social Security is not going to find you a job and they are certainly not going to guarantee a certain pay rate. If you are under 50, all SSA cares about is whether you can “engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy.”

An important cautionary note: Our example of the bricklayer has been simplified to help explain the general guidelines of how age is a factor in qualifying for Social Security disability benefits. But the rules governing disability payments are complex, and the system is complicated and confusing. Nearly two out of every three disability claims are denied on the initial application. This is why it is important to have a local, Chicago Social Security disability lawyer review your claim and offer you the best possible advice for your unique situation. Contact Nash Disability Law for a free evaluation of your claim.