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Social Security Disability for those 50 and Over

Appealing for benefits is best done under the guidance of an experienced disability lawyer.

If you are over 50 years of age it may be easier for you to qualify for disability benefits.

Author Attorney Greg Reed:

SSDi over 50

If you are over 50 years of age it may be easier for you to qualify for disability benefits.

The Social Security Administration recognizes that transitioning to a new job or field may be more difficult for an older person than a younger person. If a person is 50 years old or over the SSA has special rules that apply for qualifying for disability.

Approximately one in four Americans has some form of disability and many are over the age of 50.

As the body ages, it is more likely for a person to develop a serious medical condition or have an illness that becomes worse. Disability at any age can be devastating, but health issues may prevent an older adult from working in their current job or finding any work they can do at all. If you are over 50 and in this situation your age may be a factor in qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits.

The Social Security Administration defines disability as the inability to work in any job because of a physical or mental impairment that has lasted, or is expected to last, at least 12 months or result in death.

To be eligible for SSDI, an applicant must also meet two other basic requirements:

  •    An applicant must have worked long enough and recently enough at a job that paid Social Security taxes; and
  •   An applicant must have income below substantial gainful activity (SGA) which is $1,550 per month in 2024.

Social Security uses two methods to determine whether or not an individual is disabled: Social Security’s Blue Book and a residual capacity functional capacity assessment.

The Blue Book is a manual listing of impairments which qualify as disabling. If an applicant’s medical condition matches an impairment listing, they will most likely be approved for disability benefits.

If you are over 50 and have been denied disability don’t give up! Contact a Disability lawyer at 512-454-4000 for a free consultation and get the benefits you deserve.

An RFC assessment evaluates how much strength-related work an individual is capable of doing (walking, standing, lifting, pushing, stooping) after taking into account their physical or mental disability.

Through an RFC, Social Security determines what level of work a person can do: sedentary, light work, medium work, heavy work, very heavy work. Most applicants are designated for sedentary, light, or medium work. The less work a person is capable of doing, the better chance of being approved for benefits.

The Social Security Administration recognizes that transitioning to a new job or field may be more difficult for an older person than a younger person.

If a person 50 or over doesn’t meet an impairment listing, Social Security will refer to “grid rules.” Grids are a series of tables that consider several factors in determining whether or not a person is disabled.

After assessing an individual’s RFC, Social Security will consider the applicant’s level of education, previous work experience, and transferable skills.

  1.   Education. The less education a person has, the more likely they will be approved. Categories are divided into:
    •   illiterate – unable to communicate in English
    •    limited education – 11th grade or lower
    •   high school graduate or higher
    •   recent education or training for a skilled job

  2.   Previous work experience. Applicants are ranked as unskilled, semi-skilled or skilled. The less work experience a person has, the better their chance of approval.
  3.   Transferability of skills. Social Security evaluates how much of an applicant’s experience can be applied in a different work situation.

Social Security’s grid rules are grouped according to RFC level and age: under 50, 50-54, 55-59 and 60 and over.

To see how a case might be decided, first find the table for the applicant’s RFC level and age group. Below is an example of what a grid looks like for people 50 – 54 who are classified for sedentary work. Next find the rows describing the applicant’s education level and skill level. The last column lists the determination Social Security will make based on those two factors. For example, an applicant who has a 9th grade education and no skilled work experience or no work experience would be considered disabled. A person with a 9th grade with skilled work experience or recent training for skilled work would not be considered disabled.


Education Skill Level Decision
Limited Education Unskilled work or no work Disabled
Limited Education Unskilled work or no work Disabled
Limited Education Skilled or semiskilled work but skills are not transferable Disabled
Limited Education Skilled or semiskilled work with transferable skills Not disabled
High school graduate (or GED) or higher Unskilled work or no work Disabled
High school graduate (or GED) or higher Skilled or semiskilled work but skills not transferable Disabled
High school graduate (or GED) or higher Skilled or semiskilled work with transferable skills Not disabled
Recent education/training for skilled work Unskilled work or no work Not disabled
Recent education/training for skilled work Skilled or semiskilled work, whether skills are transferable or not Not disabled

Grid rules are useful for some people 50 or over if they are only capable of sedentary or light work.

A person who can perform medium or heavy work would probably not be found disabled. However, grid rules can be challenged; for example, an applicant who has trouble concentrating because of anxiety or other non-exertional limitations such as not being able to use their fingers, may not be able to perform any work. Also, if an applicant is just a few months away from age 55 and would not be approved under grid rules for age 50-54, it is possible that Social Security would consider their claim based on age group 55-59, where they could be approved.

Another way an older individual may qualify for disability benefits is through the little known “worn-out worker” rule.

Under this provision, an applicant must have a “marginal” education (6th grade or lower), worked in “arduous” unskilled labor for at least 35 years, and be unable to perform their previous job.

Because grid rules are adjusted according to age, applicants older than 50 may find it easier to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits under grid rules.

If you are not sure that your medical condition will qualify, an experienced Social Security Disability attorney can evaluate your case and help you file your claim, saving valuable time and improving your chances of approval.

In order to qualify for Social Security Disability, you will need to satisfy a few specific requirements in two categories as determined by the Social Security Administration.

The first category is the Work Requirements which has two tests.

  1.   The Duration of Work test.   Whether you have worked long enough to be covered under SSDI.
  2.   The Current Work Test.   Whether you worked recently enough for the work to actually count toward coverage.

The second category is the Medical Eligibility Requirement.

  1.   Are you working?   Your disability must be “total”.
  2.   Is your medical condition severe?    Your disability must be “severe” enough to interfere with your ability to perform basic work-related activities, such as walking, sitting, and remembering.
  3.   Is your medical condition on the List of Impairments?   The SSA has a “List of Impairments” that automatically qualify as “severe” disabilities. If your disease is not listed this does not mean you cannot get disability, it means you must prove you cannot maintain employment due to your limitations.
  4.   Can you do the work you did before?   SSDI rules look at whether your medical condition prevents you from doing the work you did prior to developing the condition.
  5.   Can you do any other type of work?   If you cannot do your prior work, an evaluation is made as to whether you can perform any other kind of work.

More details can be found on our Qualifying for Disability page.

best social security disability lawyer
Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you are not able to work due to accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.

Greg Reed disability lawyer
Author: Attorney Greg Reed has been practicing law for 29 years. He is Superlawyers rated by Thomson Reuters and is Top AV Preeminent® and Client Champion Gold rated by Martindale Hubbell. Through his extensive litigation Mr. Reed obtained board certification from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Greg is admitted to practice in the United States District Court - all Texas Districts and the United States Court of Appeals-Fifth Circuit. Mr. Reed is a member of the Travis County Bar Association, Texas Trial Lawyers Association, past Director of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association, and an Associate member of the American Board of Trial Advocates. Mr. Reed and all the members of Bemis, Roach & Reed have been active participants in the Travis County Lawyer referral service.

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