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How Do Age, Education And The Work You've Done Fit Into A Determination Of Disability


Your age, education and the work you've done become particularly important when the state agency that determines medical eligibility [generally known as Disability Determination Service (DDS)] looks to see if there is other work for which you can qualify even with your symptoms ("impairments.") 


As a practical matter, Social Security considers younger people more able to adapt to new circumstances. So, the younger a person is, the harder DDS will look for work you can do.

If you are 50 or older, you are not considered disabled if you are unemployed solely because of your age. However, if you can't do your normal work, age becomes a very important factor -- some say the most important determining factor  -- in determining  whether there is other work you can do.  

  • Age 50-54: age is considered a factor which makes it more difficult to think you qualify for another job, particularly if you have limited work experience. It doesn't win the day for you, but it does help.
  • Age 55 -59: with a severe impairment, you're not likely to be found to be able to work unless you have skills that can be used in less demanding jobs.
  • Age 60 -- 64: you will not be considered able to adjust to even sedentary or light work unless you have skills that are highly marketable. (For a definition of "sedentary" and "light work," see below.) 

If you're between age 62 and Full Retirement Age: When you apply for SSDI, also apply for your Social Security Retirement Benefit (SSR). While the amount you will receive for SSR at a younger age is less than you'd receive at full retirement age, you will begin to receive a payment immediately -- without a 5 month waiting period or the time required for an SSDI claim to be processed.  

If you are approved for disability, the amount of your benefit will be reduced for each month that you received retirement benefits. For most people, this will result in only a small overall reduction.  

The retroactive payment which includes the months you received a lesser payment, will include an amount for the difference between what you received and the full benefit. For example, if your early SSR is $700 a month, and full retirement benefit would be $900 a month, if you're awarded SSDI, you will receive a check for the difference between $700 and $900 for the months you received early SSR but are now receiving SSDI.  If you're denied SSDI, at least you have an income. 


Education becomes important if you are unable to read and write well enough to function in a modern society at the same level as the majority of the citizens. 


It is essential that the evidence you submit show that you cannot perform the same type of work you have done during the past 15 years.

Social Security considers 4 levels of ability to work, which in turn become important for how to place a claimant on for the Grid Tables and Listings:

Sedentary: work that requires mainly sitting and no physical labor

Light: work that requires slightly more effort than sedentary

Medium: work that requires average physical ability such as sitting, standing, or moderate lifting

Heavy to Very Heavy: work that requires what amounts to any and all types of physical work

To learn more, see Exertion Levels.

Keep in mind that it is not the disease that is important, as much as what it does to your physical and mental ability to work. For example, just because you were diagnosed with a disease such as cancer does not mean you are disabled. The question is how it affects your ability to work.

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