SSDI Approval Rate by Age

The Social Security Administration has set up benefit programs to help people who are disabled, including the elderly. If you are age 55 or older and have become disabled, your chance of being awarded Social Security disability benefits is higher than someone below age 55.

If you are over 55 and can no longer do sedentary work, you must be able to transition to "skilled" labor to be considered not disabled. Older applicants will benefit from these guidelines. Applicants who are able to work sedentary jobs are typically denied disability compensation. On the other hand, after age 50, applicants may be considered disabled even if the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers they can conduct sedentary or light employment.

What Age Can I Get Social Security Disability Benefits?

You may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) as young as 18. This is because the minimum age for a person to receive a Social Security disability benefit (SSDI) based on the applicant’s earnings record is 18.

However, an 18-year-old may qualify for disability benefits based on their parents’ earning records. This is called a Childhood Disability Beneficiary (CDB) and can be awarded to an individual who is 18 years of age or older or has been disabled before reaching the age of 22 and whose parent(s) worked and paid Social Security taxes but is now disabled, retired, or deceased.

Further Reading: What Conditions Qualify For Disability?

The older you are, the better chance you have of qualifying. This is because, the older you are, the more time you have likely spent working which means that you will have earned more work credits.

Also, the Social Security Administration (SSA), which is responsible for assessing claims for disability benefits, considers someone over the age of 50 as being less likely to return to their old job. On top of this, it is typically harder to train people over the age of 50 in a new skill to open up more options for different types of work. Therefore, it is not surprising that people in an older age bracket have an increased chance of qualifying for disability benefits based on the SSA’s assessment criteria.

Even though an 18-year-old can be awarded disability benefits, the chances of winning a successful claim for SSDI does increase with age.

Once you have reached retirement age, you’ll automatically be switched to retirement benefits.

It’s Easier for Older People to Qualify for Disability Benefits

This is because the SSA believes that it can be quite difficult for older disabled workers to transition to a new career. This transition is called a vocational adjustment, and the older you are, the more the SSA wants to minimize your vocational adjustment. For this purpose, the SSA has made it easier for older people to win disability benefits. For people at or over the age of 55, it’s easier to qualify, because the requirements for disability are at a lower level as they approach old age.

Does age affect my approval rate?

SSDI Approval Rate by Age

There are 8.2 million recipients of social security disability benefits (SSDI) throughout the country. Compared to age 40, people at and after age 50 are twice as likely to collect SSDI. And, compared to people at age 50, people who are 60 are twice as likely to collect SSDI. In 2020 around 5.5 million people between 55 and 65 years receive SSDI benefits.

No one in 2020 was receiving SSDI under the age of 34 years even though almost 50 million were paying SSDI insurance.

Your Disability Status Depends on Your Ability to Work

First, the SSA needs to determine if you are considered disabled by its standards. The SSA will investigate to discover if your impairment prevents you from substantial gainful activity (SGA.) This means the money you can earn working even with your disability. If you are capable of SGA even with your impairment, you will not be found to be disabled.

Severity and Duration of Impairment

The SSA also looks at the severity and duration of your impairment. To be considered severe, your impairment must greatly affect your daily life. Additionally, the severity of your condition must be expected to last a year or more. Older applicants are simply more likely to have a severe impairment.

Your impairment will be analyzed to see if your condition meets or equals one of impairment listings in the SSA's Blue Book. These are the listings of all illnesses and conditions that would qualify a person to be considered disabled by the SSA and therefore qualify for benefit payments.

Present Ability Compared to Past Performance

The SSA also wants to know if your impairment prevents you from presently doing the work you were able to do within the last 15 years. Lastly, they want to know if your impairment prevents you from doing any other kind of work.

Guidelines determining your work ability

The “grid rules” are medical-vocational guidelines used to determine your ability to work, according to what level of exertion you’re capable of and other factors. The “grid” is a chart with different Social Security disability rules applying to different age brackets and different residual functioning capacity (RFC) levels. The grid rules favor those who are at, and older than, age 50, limited to sedentary work, and have limited transferable work skills.

If you are over the age of 50 and you have a disabling condition, but your condition doesn’t meet a medical listing for disability, grid rules would apply. The SSA would look at your age bracket and consider your education, skill level, and the transferability of your skills to another job. They would then use this information to determine whether you can be considered disabled by their standards.

Residual Functioning Capacity

RFC stands for residual functioning capacity. This is the level of physical exertion a person can work at despite limited ability due to impairment. Your RFC is based on how much weight you can lift. Based on the weight you’re able to lift (and how frequently,) you may be found to be capable of sedentary, light, medium, or heavy work levels. For each of these RFC work levels, there are different grid rules to apply for SSDI.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides disability benefits which help people who are disabled, including the elderly.

If you are 55 years or older and are now disabled, your chances of your claim for social security disability benefits being successful is higher than for a person who is less than 55 years.

This is because disabled older people are less likely to be able to take on a new career or a job that suits their new disability. The SSA has made it much easier for older people to get disability benefits.

For people at or over the age of 55 years, it’s easier to qualify, because the requirements for disability are lower level for those close to an older age.

Most people who are receiving a disability benefit are subject to Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs) every 3 or 7 years, depending on the likelihood that your condition will improve.

If a disability benefit recipient has a medical condition that is likely to medically improve, a CDR may be conducted before the three years is up.

While those with a permanent disability their claim may not be reviewed until 7 years. In addition, CDRs are also more frequently conducted for claimants who are under the age of 50 years.

If the probability of your disability improving is low, the SSA will send you a short screening form, Disability Update Report (SSA-455-OCR-SM).

However, if the probability is higher, the SSA will send you the long form, Continuing Disability Review Report (SSA-454-BK). Most disability benefit recipients are sent the shorter form and most of these claimants have their benefits continued after a CDR.

Most recipients of disability benefits who are 55 years or older need to complete a CDR every 7 years, typically because older people are less likely to improve than younger people.

Social Security Disability Over 55 Odds of Winning

As an individual gets closer to more advanced age and, eventually reaches retirement age, the chances of being awarded disability benefits becomes easier. Anyone who is in the 55-59 years age bracket is classified as being of advanced age as determined by the SSA.

The SSA uses the grids which are a series of tables to determine if a claimant is disabled that is if he or she doesn't meet a listing in the SSA’s Blue Book.

The characteristics of an applicant the SSA considers when using these grids are the claimant's age, education level, skill level from previous work, and the results of the residual functional capacity test (RFC).

For a person below age 50, the grids are not of much help because they almost always consider this age group to be "not disabled."

The grid rules favor more an individual who is approaching the older age groups. If those aged 50-54 years are limited to doing just sedentary work or less, and don't possess work skills that enable them to participate in other types of work, they are much more likely to be approved for disability benefits.

If after considering your application for disability benefits between the ages of 55 and 59 the SSA decides your medical diagnosis fails to meet a SSA Blue Book listing but you are unable to do your past job, the SSA will use the “grid rules” for the 55-59 age groups to decide if you are disabled.

The features of an applicant the SSA considers when using these grids are the claimant's age, education level, skill level from previous work, and the results of the residual functional capacity test (RFC).

If an applicant is more than 55 years and cannot participate in light work he or she may be approved for disability benefits even if they possess a high school education. The SSA doesn’t expect an older age worker to take part in any vocational adjustment training.

Optimize your Chance of Success

To optimize your chance of a favorable outcome, it’s often helpful to hire a disability attorney or advocate.

Additional Resources