How Age Affects An Adult Disability Claim

Age, education, and ability to perform past relevant work (PRW) are all important factors in a Social Security Disability (SSD) claim. If your impairment(s) does not meet or equal a listing, then the grid rules come into play to determine disability.

Based on the evidence, SSA will establish the claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC) as:

  • Sedentary (sit-down work, occasional standing and walking, lifting no more than 10 lbs at a time, occasionally lifting or carrying small articles);

  • Light (lifting no more than 20 lbs at a time, frequent lifting up to 10 pounds, a good deal of standing or walking or mostly sitting with some pushing or pulling of arm or leg controls);

  • Medium (lifting no more than 50 lbs at a time, frequent lifting, or carrying up to 25 lbs);

  • Heavy (lifting no more than 100 lbs at a time, frequent lifting, or carrying up to 50 lbs); or

  • Very heavy (lifting over 100 lbs at a time, frequent lifting, or carrying 50 lbs or more).

Then SSA will cross-reference those remaining physical exertion capabilities with the claimant's age, education, and ability to perform past relevant work (PRW).

Education level is divided into:

  • Illiterate or unable to communicate in English;

  • Sixth grade or less;

  • 11th grade or less; or
  • At least High School graduate or GED.

Past work experience is categorized into:

  • None;

  • Unskilled;

  • Semiskilled; or

  • Skilled; and also

  • Whether skills can be transferred to other work (supervising, teaching, training, assembling, construction equipment, inventory, typing, managing money, filing, etc.).

The physical demand and skill level categories come from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. SSA will sometimes (and especially at a hearing) get an independent vocational expert to determine your past relevant work demand and skill level and whether you have skills that transfer to other work. The grid rules are geared mainly toward physical impairments and limitations. Psychological and neurological impairments might have nonexertional limitations (seeing, speaking, hearing, functioning due to anxiety/depression, paying attention, concentration, understanding/remembering detailed instructions, environmental restrictions. etc.) that are disabling from work.

Age 18-49

If you are under age 50, you must prove with written doctor support that you cannot sustain gainful employment at any type of job in the entire national economy for at least 12 straight months without improvement despite compliance with regular medical care.

The only exception to this is if you are under age 50, illiterate, past work was unskilled or none, and SSA reduces you to a sedentary duty (sit-down work only), then you can be found disabled.

Age 50-54

If you are of age 50 to 54 and SSA finds you capable of medium duty, then you can be found disabled if you have:

  • Less than high school education and no past work; or
  • Less than high school education and your past work was unskilled.

If you are age 50 to 54 and SSA finds you capable of light duty, then you can be found disabled if you are:

  • Illiterate and you have no past work; or
  • Illiterate and your past work was unskilled.

If you are of age 50-54 and SSA finds you capable of sedentary duty, then you can be found disabled if you cannot sustain gainful employment doing your past relevant work as normally performed in the national economy and your skills do not transfer to other work.

Age 55-59

If you are of age 55-59 and SSA finds you capable of medium duty, then you can be found disabled if you have less than high school education and no past work.

If you are of age 55-59 and SSA finds you capable of light duty, then you can be found disabled if you cannot sustain gainful employment doing your past relevant work as normally performed in the national economy and your skills do not transfer to other work. The same goes for sedentary duty.

Age 60+

If you are over age 60 but have not yet reached full retirement age and SSA finds you capable of medium duty, then you can be found disabled if you have:

  • Less than sixth grade education and no past work; or
  • Less than sixth grade education and past work was unskilled; or
  • Less than high school education and no past work.

If you are over age 60 and SSA finds you capable of light duty, then you can be found disabled if you cannot sustain gainful employment doing your past relevant work as normally performed in the national economy and your skills do not transfer to other work. The same goes for sedentary duty.

An Experienced Attorney Can Help You With A Claim

Age affects my disability law practice too. With 35 years of experience, I have helped many adults in Virginia with their Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) cases. I have seen how my clients age and how their life changes when they are diagnosed with a disability.

I have also seen clients make progress in recovery from a disability. You can accomplish your goals and live a fulfilling life with a disability. As your lawyer, I am here to help you do just that.

Tell Me Your Goals In A Free Consultation

Schedule your free initial consultation with me today by calling 804-554-3168 or by sending me an email. When you sit down with me at my Richmond office, you will understand how to approach your case with an optimal outcome in mind. Contact me today to learn more.