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Why is there an age limit to SSA Disability Benefits?

Recently on our disability forum we had a disability applicant ask, “Why there is an age limit to get disability benefits?” Without more information it is hard to say if this question was from a younger or older applicant, but this blog will address both examples and explain why the very young and the very old often do not get Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and the young


Social Security Disability Insurance or SSDI was originally created as a wage replacement program for disabled workers. To qualify a worker has to earn sufficient work credits (by working and paying employment taxes) and become disabled and unable to work due to a severe mental or physical health condition.

It is not uncommon for applicants less than 25 years of age to simply lack the necessary work credits to qualify for SSDI because they have not worked long enough or paid enough in employment taxes to be considered insured.

Additionally, assuming the young SSDI applicant is insured, they are also less likely to be approved because, unless their condition and symptoms are listed on the SS Listing of Impairments (a listing of the conditions and symptoms the SSA considers automatically disabled), it is more difficult for a young worker to prove they cannot retrain for new work.

This may not seem fair, but most would agree that a 25 year old is more likely to have the ability to attend school or job training and start a new career than a 60 year old construction worker that has never had a desk job.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and the aged


Many workers mistakenly believe that they can apply for SSDI, regardless of their age. This is not true. SSDI benefits are not paid to disabled workers who have reached their full retirement age.

If you are less than your full retirement age and you are unable to work due to a severe physical or mental condition and your condition is expected to last for 12 continuous months, you can apply for SSDI, but once you reach your full retirement age your SSDI benefits are automatically converted to SSA retirement benefits and you will not receive your SSDI payments but will instead only receive SSA retirement benefits.

Now, what if you are already past your full retirement age and you become disabled? You also cannot apply for SSDI benefits; presumably at this point you would be receiving SSA retirement and you would not qualify for SSDI benefits and SSA retirement simultaneously.

So why does SSDI have an age limit? Because it was specifically created to help those who depended on a wage and were no longer able to work and who had not reached their full retirement age. If a claimant had reached their full retirement age it was assumed that they would able to receive Social Security Administration retirement benefits instead.

Talk to a disability lawyer


If you have a severe health condition and need help getting your benefits, talk to a disability lawyer. They are only paid if you win your disability case.
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