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Supplemental Security Income benefits how are they affected by age?

If you are disabled and unable to work and you do not have sufficient work credits to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) you may be considering filing a claim for Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI). To qualify for Supplemental Security Income benefits you must be aged (65 years or older), disabled or blind and unable to work for at least 12 continuous months, but you also must have very limited income and resources. Recently on our disability forum we had an applicant ask, “Is it easier to get Supplemental Security Income benefits if you are over the age of 50?”

When does age not matter for Supplemental Security Income benefits?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has two methods it uses to determine if a claimant is disabled. First, they will review the claimant’s condition and determine if it is on the SSA listing of impairments. This listing is basically a list of common conditions and symptoms the SSA will consider automatically disabling.

Because not all conditions are on this list you may be approved not only if you have a condition on the list but if you have a condition which matches in severity another condition on the list.

Now, if you can prove your condition “meets or exceeds” a listing the SSA does not consider your age as a qualifying factor. For instance, if you are a 35 year old worker who has a severe brain injury and you have the symptoms identified under 11.00 Neurological – Adult, 11.18 Cerebral Trauma in the SSA listing of impairments the SSA will not care if you are 35 or 55, assuming your meet the nonmedical requirements for the SSI program, they will automatically approve your SSI case.

When does age matter for Supplemental Security Income benefits?

As mentioned above, the SSA has two ways to make their disability determination. We have discussed the first method of comparing your condition against the SSA listing, now let’s discuss the second method: the medical vocational allowance.

If you cannot prove your condition meets or exceeds a listing you have another chance, through a medical vocational allowance, to prove you do not have the residual ability to work. Through the medical vocational allowance the SSA will review not only your health condition but also your age, your education, your work history and your transferable work skills.

Because the SSA will assume a younger worker has a greater ability to retrain for less strenuous work it will be easier for an older claimant to win benefits. So what does this mean for you? The closer you get towards retirement age the greater chance you will have to win Supplemental Security Income benefits.

In fact, for a young claimant who is highly educated it will be tough to prove they cannot do sedentary work through a medical vocational allowance. This is not necessarily true for a claimant over age 55. If you are an older claimant, especially if you have a limited education, and you have worked heavy labor jobs for the majority of your work life the SSA will recognize it will be very tough for you to retrain for sedentary work and you are more likely to win Supplemental Security Income benefits.
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