Social Security Disability Rules After Age 50

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Get Some Financial Relief By Knowing the Special Rules for the Social Security Disability Over 50 Program


Age-related diseases and illnesses occur frequently for older Americans. As we get older, our bodies become less resilient and more likely to develop certain diseases and other conditions. Because of these conditions that relate to aging, many people are unable to work, and their bodies may reach a disabled state by the time they are 50.

If you are under the age of 50, the Social Security Administration generally will consider you to be a “younger individual.” This is true for both Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). SSDI after 50 is determined based on work credits that the applicant has accumulated through their working years. SSDI is for those individuals who have accumulated sufficient credits in their work history to qualify for these disability benefits.

Social Security Disability Rules After Age 50Many individuals are unaware that there are special rules for disability programs for people over the age of 50. It gets easier for individuals to seek and qualify for disability benefits. There is a particular set of rules that apply, called the “grid rules.” The SSA considers the age of 50 as an advanced age for this purpose.

It is fairly common knowledge that this is the age when otherwise-benign conditions can develop into larger, more serious problems. Therefore, if you have a medical condition that limits your ability to work, you should read about the special rules for Social Security disability benefits over 50. Continue reading to learn more about the rules and get all the information.

What Rules Do You Need to Know to Apply for Disability After 50

  • If you plan to apply for disability benefits, the SSA will assess your medical condition. If the SSA determines that your condition is severe enough to prevent you from performing any meaningful work, then your chance of getting approved for disability benefits will likely increase.
  • Before applying, you should consider checking whether your condition is listed in the SSA’s Blue Book. It can be beneficial to have a lawyer review your application before you submit it to the SSA. They can help you understand whether it makes sense for you to apply for disability benefits or whether there are better options for you to pursue.
  • Many rules change for disability benefits after 50, and it can be somewhat easier for individuals to get the SSD benefits they need when they reach that age. If your medical condition does not make you eligible for benefits, you may still be able to seek financial assistance in other ways. 

The Social Security disability grid rules help the SSA evaluate how disabled an individual is, regardless of their medical condition and official diagnosis. It can help to assess whether an applicant can work at any other job or whether their condition is limiting to the extent that it prevents them from working at all. 

Special Rules for Workers Over 50 Who Are Applying for Disability Benefits

The special rules for workers over 50 can be influenced heavily by the following four significant factors:

  • Residual functional capacity (RFC): The SSA uses RFC to evaluate how much strength-related work an applicant can perform despite the limitations that their medical condition has caused. RFC considers whether an individual is capable of walking, pushing, lifting, and standing. The lower a person’s RFC score,  the higher the chances that the applicant will be eligible for disability after 50. RFC can be categorized by the SSA into four categories of work: sedentary, light, medium, and heavy.
  1. Sedentary: An individual is not able to lift more than 10 pounds.
  2. Light: An individual can lift 10 pounds but not more than 20 pounds, occasionally.
  3. Medium: An individual can frequently lift 25 pounds.
  4. Heavy: An individual can lift more than 50 pounds.

If you can perform heavy, strenuous work, it will not be easy to qualify for disability benefits. This is because there are various job opportunities for people who can perform heavy work, as per the SSA. However, other factors, such as skill level and education, can also play a significant role in determining a person’s eligibility for disability benefits after 50.

  • Education:  The education levels can be broken down as follows:
  1. Illiterate or unable to communicate using the English language
  2. Limited education level or less than 11th grade
  3. A high school graduate or more
  4. Completion of a recent educational program that provided training for a skilled job

Again, the rule remains the same for education, i.e., less education means a higher chance of getting approval for one’s disability claim. However, the final decision will be a combination of all the four factors that come under grid rules.

  • Previous work experience: How you performed in your last job can be another factor that the SSA uses to determine whether you are eligible for benefits. Based on previous work experience, the applicant will be classified as skilled, semi-skilled, or unskilled. If they have less experience or less skill, then the chances of getting disability benefits may be higher. If an applicant is unskilled and can perform only light work, their likelihood of eligibility for benefits increases.
  • Transferability of skills: The SSA will evaluate whether you have skills from your previous job that you could transfer to a new and similar position. Fewer skills may increase your eligibility for benefits.

Special Provisions for Older Workers Seeking Social Security Disability

About 156 million workers were granted SSDI benefits due to a long-lasting impairment, and about 8.2 million disabled workers were granted SSDI  after 50 benefits.

Applicants Ages 50 to 54

The SSA does not have any special rules for applicants who are older than 50. People who are disabled, are 50 to 54 years old, and cannot perform any work that involves limited physical activity may improve their chances of getting approved for benefits.

Applicants Ages 55 to 60 

When a claimant is age 55 to 60, then the SSA will analyze the age, past work experience, education level, and performance in less demanding work. If you have serious health problems, you may be granted disability benefits in the first instance. Further, the SSA regularly appoints vocational experts who can testify with regard to an individual’s capabilities in a work setting.

Applicants Older Than 60

Disability rules are more flexible for claimants who are older than 60. People who have disabilities are likely to receive the benefits they need if they are unable to perform any work. The SSA’s determination can increase your chance of drawing complete Social Security retirement benefits. The benefits will be granted when you are completely retired at the age of 62. This can help you receive increased retirement benefits instead of accepting reduced benefits at a younger age.

Social Security Disability Review After Age 50

To determine whether an individual is disabled, there are certain questions that the SSA may consider before making its decision:

  • Is the claimant involved in a substantial gainful activity (SGA)?
  • Does the claimant suffer from a disabling condition?
  • Is the claimant’s disability listed within the SSA blue book?
  • Is the applicant able to perform any of the work that they previously did before becoming disabled?
  • Is the claimant able to perform any work despite their condition?

The SSA regulations state that a claimant must be able to provide evidence that they are not able to do any kind of work as a result of their disability. In addition to this, a claimant should also be able to provide valid proof of their disability, including medical records and how well they are responding to their doctor-prescribed treatment. Your disability application will be analyzed and then the SSA can make a determination based on the evidence that you have provided.