Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are federal disability programs that provide financial support to people who are prevented from working due to an injury, sickness, or other medical impairment. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) reports that approximately 8.2 million people are currently receiving Social Security disability (SSD) benefits. To qualify, you must be able to return to work or retrain for a new position.
Notably, age is a relevant factor in the Social Security disability claims process. This raises an important question: What are the age categories in a Social Security disability claim? The short answer is that there are four different categories that the SSA uses to help determine an applicant’s suitability for adjusting to a new type of job. In this blog post, our Arizona Social Security disability attorneys provide a more detailed guide to the age categories for SSD benefits.
Why the Social Security Disability Age Categories Matter
Social Security disability benefits are designed to protect people who cannot reasonably work. To start, an applicant must provide medical and vocational evidence establishing that they cannot return to their previous position. Beyond that, an applicant must also prove that they cannot reasonably be expected to undergo job-retraining to find a less physically demanding job.
Age is a significant factor in assessing an employee’s suitability for job retraining. Under Code of Federal Regulations § 404.1563, the SSA will consider a disability applicant’s “chronological age in combination with your residual functional capacity, education, and work experience.” All of these factors matter. The older an employee is, the less likely the SSA will determine that vocational retraining is appropriate.
An Overview of the Four SSD Age Categories
In assessing an applicant’s suitability for vocational retraining, the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses four different broad age categories. The category that you fit into at the time you are submitting your application for SSDI or SSI benefits matters. Here are the four Social Security disability age categories to know about in Arizona:
- Younger Person (Under 50): Workers who are under the age of 50 are considered to be highly suitable for vocational retraining on age-based grounds. That is not to say that you cannot qualify for Social Security disability benefits as a young person—you absolutely can if you have a severe medical impairment. Still, the SSA considers applicants under the age of 50 highly retrainable.
- Approaching Advanced Age (50 to 54): Once a worker reaches the age of 50, the SSA recognizes that extensive vocational retraining may be a challenge. While some form of vocational rehabilitation is still appropriate for workers who are approaching advanced age, the SSA is far more forgiving in finding applicants in this age category “unsuitable” for retraining. In other words, it is easier to get an SSD claim approved when you are older than 50.
- Advanced Age (55 to 59): Workers who are 55 years old or older are considered to be of advanced age by the SSA. Given the age of these applicants, only very modest forms of vocational retraining are considered to be appropriate. Still, it is possible that the SSA will deem an applicant who is in their late 50s suitable for some modest forms of retraining.
- Approaching Retirement Age (60 or Older): A worker who is 60 years of age or older is considered to be approaching retirement age. Indeed, they are within a few years of qualifying for their Social Security retirement benefits. Applicants of this age group will almost never be asked to submit to vocational rehabilitation. Instead, the SSA will simply evaluate to determine if their already existing employment skills are reasonably transferable to a less demanding occupation.
Age categories are just one of many different factors that will be evaluated as part of an SSD claim. These are notoriously complicated cases. Professional guidance is available. If you have any specific questions about Social Security disability age categories, an experienced Arizona attorney can help.
Schedule a Free Consultation WIth a Social Security Disability Lawyer in Phoenix
At Pekas Smith: Arizona Disability Attorneys, our law firm is committed to helping people obtain and maintain the financial benefits that they rightfully deserve. If you have any questions about Social Security disability age categories, we are ready to get you the answers. Contact us now for a no cost, no commitment initial consultation. From our Phoenix office, we provide SSD law services throughout all of Arizona, including in Chandler, Flagstaff, Mesa, Tucson, Scottsdale, and Sedona.