Social Security’s rules for disability eligibility over age 50

December 7, 2021 in

Living with a serious medical condition can make it very difficult to work. Your conditions may have caused you to change the type of work that you used to do. For example, if you previously had a job that involved a lot of heavy lifting, or required you to stand on your feet for most of the workday, you may have had to change careers and find a job that allows you to sit down for most of the day instead. This may be difficult to do if you have spent several years in one profession and now have to learn an entirely new skill set.

If you are age 50 or older and suffering from a medical condition that makes it difficult to perform the work that you have always done, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. The Social Security Administration has instituted special rules that apply for those over the age of 50 regarding transferability of job skills. The expert legal team at LaBovick Law Group is well-versed in these rules and knows how to apply them to help you get the benefits you need and deserve.

The Social Security Administration has created a set of rules referred to as the Medical-Vocational Rules. These rules are of particular importance for those who are age 50 or older as of their date of disability, also referred to as their “alleged onset date.” The rules take into account your age at the onset of your disability, your level of education, the level of exertion which you are physically capable of doing in light of your conditions (known as your residual functional capacity), and the skill level of the jobs that you used to do, as well as the type of skills involved in those jobs.

If you became disabled between the ages of 50 and 54, and are only capable of doing sedentary work, it is possible to be found disabled based on this framework. However, many factors come into play when determining how this rule framework applies to your situation. One such factor is the skill level of the jobs that you used to do. If your previous jobs were unskilled, the Social Security Administration will find you to be disabled. However, the agency follows a very specific definition of “unskilled.” Unskilled jobs are jobs that can be learned in 30 days or less and require little to no judgment to do simple duties. Whether or not a job is considered to be unskilled is not determined by the educational level required to obtain the job. For example, an individual can become a server at a restaurant without obtaining any type of degree or having to complete any type of vocational training program, but a server position is not considered to be an unskilled job, as the job is comprised of more than simple duties. If your previous job was skilled or semi-skilled, and you are only physically capable of doing sedentary work, it is still possible to be found disabled according to these rules. However, there are a few more steps that apply. First, the Social Security Administration will determine whether you are able to perform the job that you used to do. If you are not able to perform the job that you used to do, the agency will determine whether there are any jobs at the sedentary level that have the skills you acquired at your last job – in other words, if your job skills transfer to a sedentary job. If you had a very physical job that required heavy lifting, such as in construction, this requirement will be easier to satisfy. However, if you had a job that primarily required sitting for the entirety of the workday, it will be much more difficult to be found disabled based on Social Security’s rules.

If you are age 55 and older and are capable of performing what the Social Security Administration deems “light” work, it is also possible to be found disabled based upon Social Security’s rules, provided you meet some other requirements. The Social Security Administration defines “light” work as work that requires standing or walking for 6 hours out of an 8-hour workday, and lifting no more than 20 lbs. A restaurant server is an example of a job that is performed at the “light” level. The skill level of your previous job will once again come into play. If your previous job was unskilled, you will be found disabled. If your previous job was semi-skilled or skilled, then the analysis continues further. The Social Security Administration will examine the requirements of your past jobs in detail. Again, if your previous work involved heavy lifting, it will be easier to meet the Social Security Administration’s rules to be found disabled. If your previous job is considered to have been at the “light” level or was a sedentary job, it will be more difficult to meet these rules. Therefore, when completing your disability application, it is extremely important to provide very specific details about your previous employment, including how much weight you required to lift or carry, how many hours of the workday you were required to stand or walk, whether you were responsible for hiring and firing other employees, and any other skill sets that were required in able to perform your jobs. Social Security needs this information to correctly classify your past work. In fact, many denials occur specifically because Social Security made a mistake about what the person’s past work entailed.

As evidenced above, Social Security’s rules surrounding disability eligibility over the age of 50 are not at all straightforward. Hiring an attorney to fight through this process for you will relieve you of the burden of having to navigate this system yourself and place you in the greatest position for success. The Social Security Disability attorneys at LaBovick Law Group understand how to apply the details of your specific situation to the rules of Social Security and win your case. Give us a call today at (561) 625-8307 for a free case evaluation.