Social Security Rules for Disabled Workers Over 50 Years Old

While you can apply for disability benefits at any age, doing it when you’re over 50 increases your chances of getting approved.

Suffering from a disability before retirement is common among US workers. In fact, the SSA reported that one in four of today’s 20-year-olds will become disabled before reaching the age of 67. And more than 13,000 people under 65 are receiving disability benefits as of December 2019.

But young disabled workers might have a more difficult time getting disability benefits than their older counterparts. Why is this so? The answer lies in SSA’s qualification for disability.

A woman speaking with a professional about social security laws

Aside from having enough social security credits, the SSA requires that your medical condition prevents you from working. Most workers claim disability on the basis that they cannot go back to work. But sometimes the SSA deems that they are still capable of working – just not the same job they were doing before they got disabled. As such, they may not qualify for disability benefits.

This, however, is not strictly true for older workers. The agency believes that the older you get, the more difficult it is for you to learn a new skill. Hence, the less likely it is for you to get a new job. This principle is also reflected in the SSA’s grid rules for determining disability claims.

How the Disability “Grid Rules” Work

When you apply for disability benefits, the SSA will check if your medical condition is included in their impairment listing. If not, they will determine if your condition prevents you from working.

This is where the grid of medical-vocational rules enter the picture. Once they’ve ruled that your condition does limit your employment opportunities, they turn to the grid rules.

The SSA’s grid rules take into account the following factors to determine whether you’re disabled:

  • Age
    • The older you are, the higher your chances of being considered a disabled.
  • Education level
    • People with lower education level have lesser employment opportunities. Thus, they are more likely to get disability benefits.
  • Skill level from your past work
    • The SSA categorizes an applicant’s skill level into three: skilled, semi-skilled, unskilled. Unskilled laborers usually have a hard time finding work making them more likely to get benefits.
  • Any other skills
    • If you have no other skills that can be useful in a different line of work, the SSA may grant your disability claim.
  • Your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC)
    • RFC refers to the applicant’s ability to do fulltime work on a regular basis. Using your medical records, the SSA will determine if you can still do regular activities such as standing, walking or lifting. This will then be used to gauge your RFC for various types of jobs ranging from sedentary to very heavy work. The higher your RFC, the less likely you are to get approved.

Applying for Social Disability Benefits at 50

The process for applying for social security disability benefits is the same regardless of age. You can apply online, by phone or visit an SSA office near you.

To ensure that your application gets approved, hiring an experienced workers compensation lawyer like Victor Malca is highly recommended. He has already helped thousands of injured workers in Florida throughout his 25+ year career. He can help you get the benefits you deserve too. Contact us now for a free consultation.


Victor Malca Law has over 25 years of litigation experience, we are the most trusted workers’ compensation lawyers in Florida. Our area of expertise is in representing injured workers on compensation benefit cases and disabled individuals claim social security disability benefits.

Our unwavering advocacy for employee rights and privileges are also recognized by our peers. Book a free consultation today.

Judy Ponio is a writer for Victor Malca LawAbout The Author

Judy Ponio is a writer for Victor Malca Law P.A. and enjoys helping people with questions about social security, workers compensation, and other serious matters involving people’s livelihood. She is not an attorney and her writing should not be considered legal advice.

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