How Does Age Affect the Social Security Disability Application Process?

Submitted by Shane on

In keeping with our recent blog posts, we’re going to address a question that was sent to us on Facebook recently. If you are finding these posts helpful, feel free to let us know and leave your questions in the comment section below. Today’s question is:

How does my age affect the Social Security Disability (SSD) application process?

An applicant’s age has an impact on several areas of the SSD application process. These are as follows:

Disabled Minors

Individuals under the age of 18 are slightly more limited in regard to the type of benefits that are available to them. Because SSDI is based on employment history, younger applicants do not typically qualify because they haven’t had the chance to earn a living or pay Social Security taxes. Therefore, SSI is often the best benefit option for disabled minors.

In addition to impacting the type of benefits a person can receive, a person’s age also causes slight differences in the actual application process. Children under the age of 18 are required to participate in an interview with an SSA representative—adults are not.

If a child is receiving SSI on his or her own record, they will technically become an adult at age 18. At that time, the SSA will conduct a review to determine whether or not the individual meets the adult standards for disability rather than the childhood standards.

SSDI Auxiliary Benefits

In some cases, SSDI auxiliary benefits are available to the children of adult SSDI recipients. Age is a factor here because children are only eligible if they meet one of the following criteria:

  • They are under the age of 18
  • They are 18-19 years old and are still a full time student (grade 12 or less)
  • They are 18 or older and became disabled before the age of 22 (known as an adult child)

Work Credits

The SSA evaluates an individual’s employment history in terms of “work credits”. To qualify for SSDI an applicant must have accumulated a specific amount of work credits. An applicant’s age at which he or she became disabled determines how many work credits they need.

Residual Functional Capacity

For both SSI and SSDI benefits, the SSA will evaluate the effects of your condition on your ability to work. After doing so, they will attempt to determine what you are still capable of doing using something called your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). Your RFC measures your capabilities to determine whether or not you can be retrained to do different types of work. RFC looks at your education, training, skills, and also your age. Typically the younger a person is, the more likely they are to have the ability to learn new skills and adjust to different types of work. The older a person is, the more likely it is that they will not be able to learn new skills or adjust to different types of work. If it is determined that a person can learn how to do a new job, it is likely that their claim for disability benefits will be denied.

Full Retirement Age

If you become disabled at full retirement age (age 67 for those born in 1960 and later), you will not need to apply for SSD benefits, nor can you qualify for them. If you are already receiving SSDI before full retirement age, your disability benefits will automatically convert to retirement benefits when you reach full retirement age. Beginning the month you reach retirement age, you will no longer have limits on the amount of money you can earn.

Although these are some of the most important ways in which age affects disability benefits, these certainly are not the only ways. If you have a question about age and disability benefits that was not answered in this blog post, leave it in the comment section below and we will do our best to provide you with an answer!

Submitted by: Molly Clarke

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