Applying for Disability Benefits After Age 50 - Rules & What to Know

Nearly 1 in 5 Americans report having a disability of some kind. Of these Americans, the majority are over 50 years old. As bodies age, some severe disorders become more common, while other less-dangerous disorders grow into larger problems.

These issues can make it difficult or even impossible to find work. If you're in this position, you may be worrying about making ends meet. It can be a terrifying position to be in, but there is hope for you.

If your disorder prevents you from living or working normally, then disability benefits may very well be for you. Continue below to learn how applicants over 50 are evaluated, and how you can begin the application.


Is it Easier to Receive Benefits After Age 50?


Yes, in general, it’s easier to receive disability benefits if you're 50 or older. The SSA has special rules for applicants in this age group, recognizing that it can be more challenging to adjust to new types of work or to re-enter the workforce.


These rules are known as the “grid rules” and take into account not only your medical condition but also your age, education, work experience, and transferable skills. This means that the SSA may be more likely to approve benefits for older applicants who might not qualify under the same conditions if they were younger.


Additionally, older applicants often have longer work histories, which can help in proving eligibility for benefits. However, it's still crucial to provide thorough medical documentation and evidence of how your condition limits your ability to work.


Understanding the Disability “Grid Rules”

When you apply for disability benefits, your medical history is closely examined by a Social Security disability reviewer. The first step in the process is to compare your diagnosis to its corresponding listing in the SSA’s Blue Book.

If your condition is severe enough to qualify this way (as shown with imaging, blood tests, physical tests, mental capacity tests, etc.), then you are considered “totally and permanently disabled” and qualify for benefits.

If your disorder does not qualify here, you can still qualify for benefits based on the “grid rule” assessment.

Social Security’s grid rules are a set of evaluations used to determine how disabled people are, regardless of their diagnosis. This grid analyzes four different factors:

  • Residual functional capacity (RFC): This assessment evaluates how much, if any, strength-related work you are capable of doing (walking, standing, lifting, pushing, etc.) The less work you are capable of doing, the higher your chance of getting benefits.

  • Education: Categories are broken up into: a) illiterate or unable to communicate in English, b) limited education or less (11th grade or lower), c) high school graduate or more, and d) recent education that trained you for a skilled job. The less education you have (and the longer it has been since you received it) the more likely you are to get benefits.
  • Previous work experience: Applicants are ranked as unskilled, semi-skilled, or skilled depending on the requirements of their last job. The less experienced you are deemed to be, the more likely you will qualify for disability benefits.
  • Transferability of skills: Here, the SSA evaluates how much of your experience from previous jobs you could potentially transfer to a new, similar position. The fewer transferable skills you have, the less likely you are to find different suitable work, making you more likely to qualify for benefits.

One benefit of applying for disability benefits over age 50 is that your grid rules are adjusted according to age. For instance, those above 50 have more lenient requirements to qualify under the grid rules than those who are below 50.

This means that, even if you are unsure whether or not you and your condition may qualify, it may be a good idea to apply just in case.

Starting the Application

When you are ready, applications can be found either on the SSA’s website or in person at your local Social Security office. Be sure to prepare all of your financial and medical paperwork beforehand to ensure the smoothest process possible.

If you have trouble with the application, you can get assistance from a loved one or call your local office to have a representative help you complete the forms.

Collecting Medical & Other Supporting Documents

Although there’s a higher chance of getting approved for disability benefits over 50, you’ll still want to make sure you collect as much evidence as possible for the best chance of approval. Start with thorough medical records that detail your diagnosis, treatment history, and how your condition limits your ability to work. These should include doctor's notes, test results, and any other relevant medical evidence.

Next, gather work-related documents such as your work history, job descriptions, and any performance reviews that highlight your job duties and any difficulties you've faced due to your condition. Also make sure to collect financial documents, including recent tax returns, bank statements, and other proof of income. These will all help prove your disability is severe enough to receive benefits.

Additionally, statements from family, friends, or colleagues who can attest to your condition and its impact on your daily life can provide valuable support. By collecting and organizing these documents, you can present an in-depth application that clearly displays your eligibility for disability benefits. A disability lawyer can also help you collect all the evidence you need to give you the best chance of approval.

Get Connected with a Disability Attorney Today

Before starting your application, it may also be wise to speak with a disability attorney. Not only does their legal expertise help you to keep paperwork and application matters straight, but they can even help to potentially expedite your claim, or possibly represent you in court later on.

Best of all, federal regulations prevent attorneys from taking payment unless they help you win your case, which even further reduces the risk.

If you are interested in applying for disability benefits, consider taking our free evaluation and schedule a free consultation with a disability attorney near you.

Additional Resources

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