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How Does Age Affect Your SSD Claim?

Updated: Dec 13, 2020

While people of any age can qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, the younger a person is when they apply, the more difficult it can be to receive benefits. In order to maintain consistency, Social Security has an instituted set of guidelines for those assessing disability claims, known as the medical-vocational grid, or just “the grid.” The grid takes age, education and acquired skills, into consideration when making a disability decision.

Before assessing your claim in relation to the grid, Disability Determination Services must pursue a Residual Functional Capacity Evaluation (read more here), determine the claimant’s education level, the skill level of their Past Relevant Work (read more here), and whether those skills can be transferred between jobs.


Based on these considerations assessed in the grid, individuals over 50 years old are more likely to be approved for disability benefits. Claimants are grouped into age groups as follows:

  • 18-44 are “young individuals”

  • 45-49 are “younger individuals”

  • 50-54 are “closely approaching advanced age"

  • 55+ are “advanced age”

The medical-vocation grid is a difficult looking document (seen here), that once you learn to read, is relatively straightforward. The grid’s rules essentially dictate how people with varying educations, ages, and work experiences could automatically qualify for disability.


For example, if an individual “closely approaching advanced age” (50-54) is limited to sedentary work with work skills that will NOT transfer to other jobs, they will likely be approved for disability.


These rules become even more beneficial as you get older. An individual of “advanced age” (55+) with the same education and work experience, would only need to be limited to light work on their RFC to be approved for disability


The reason the grid rules seem to favor an older claimant is because of vocational adjustment. Vocational adjustment is the ability to adjust to different tools, skills, and job situations. The Social Security Administration determines that those of advanced age (55+) have a decreased vocational adjustment, and would therefore be less likely to be able to learn and adapt in a new work environment. A younger individual would be expected to be able to take on a greater amount of vocational adjustment in comparison.

The medical-vocational grid rules can often make winning disability cases much easier for older individuals. However, there are still different considerations that have to be factored in to analysis, such as past relevant work and the level of education.


Experienced attorneys, like those at Kapor | Davis & Associates are skilled at assessing different variables of your claim and arguing in your favor. There can be many intricacies and nuances during the process for Social Security Disability benefits, but our team can help guide you through them.


Give us a call for a free consultation today.

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