Harlan Still & Koch

Can I apply for Social Security Disability if I’m older than 50?

Disability afflicts everyone regardless of age. Some people might think that if they’re older, they might have a harder time applying for and receiving benefits from Social Security.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Once you reach age 50, it’s actually easier for you to receive disability benefits.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes how difficult it is to retool your career when you are disabled after age 50. The SSA categorizes people ages 50 to 54 as “closely approaching advanced age” and adjusts its measurement grids.

SSA’s measurement grids

To understand whether you might qualify for disability, you have to understand the SSA’s measurement grids. These grids are a series of tables that rate your ability to work. Each grid starts with exertion level, or residual functioning capacity (RFC), of:

  • Sedentary – not able to lift more than 10 pounds
  • Light – Able to lift 10 pounds and no more than 25 pounds occasionally
  • Medium – Able to lift 25 pounds and no more than 50 pounds occasionally
  • Heavy – Able to lift 50 pounds frequently

The SSA then looks at your education level to see if you are illiterate or unable to speak English, completed 11th grade or less, a high school graduate or GED holder or higher, or if you have recent education that offers entry to skilled work.

Then the SSA determines your skill level to see if you are unskilled, if you are skilled or semi-skilled but your skills are not transferrable to a new job, or if you are skilled or semi-skilled and your skills do transfer to a new job.

Grids are not rigid

If, for example, if you are a diabetic with arthritis and the SSA determines you can perform sedentary work, and if you completed grade 11 or less and you are unskilled, you are considered disabled. However, if you completed grade 11 or less but you have skills that are transferable to another job, you are not disabled.

The grids, however, are not rigid – especially for people over age 50. The SSA uses them as guidelines, so if you can prove that your mental or physical disability prevents you from working in a sedentary job, you can be approved.

It’s obvious that trying to navigate the SSA and its guidelines without the help of a qualified, experienced attorney is very difficult. If you think you have a disability that qualifies you for help from the SSA, contact an attorney to for help.

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Harlan Still & Koch

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Columbia, MO 65201

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