Americans are living longer than ever. For many of us, that means working later in life than our parents and grandparents did. It is no longer unusual for people in San Diego to keep working into their 60s and 70s. A combination of need and desire to keep earning an income drives many workers to put off retirement.
A severe illness, injury or condition can put a halt to those plans by making you too sick or disabled to continue working. Being unable to earn money even a few years from your planned retirement age can seriously disrupt your financial future. Fortunately, you might qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) to help make up for the income you have lost. And being an older worker is not a disadvantage. In fact, in SSDI law, it could almost be an advantage.
The Social Security Agency, which administers SSDI and considers applications, begins to use age as a factor when the applicant is 50 or older. SSA considers applicants aged 55 and older to be of “advanced age” and treats their claims differently than from younger applicants.
Categories of potential work for an ‘advanced age’ applicant
For “advanced age” workers, SSA divides work into five categories based on how much lifting and standing they typically require:
- Sedentary work requiring lifting of up to 10 lbs. and standing or walking for up to two hours total.
- Light work (lift up to 20 lbs., walk/stand up to six hours total).
- Medium work (lift up to 50 lbs., walk/stand up to six hours total).
- Heavy work (lift up to 100 lbs., walk/stand up to six hours total).
- Very heavy work (lift more than 100 lbs., walk/stand up to six hours total).
SSA then applies your work history, education and current physical and mental abilities to determine if you are unable to work and qualified for full or partial SSDI benefits. For example, a longtime construction worker with a high school education with severe back pain that limits his ability to stand or lift heavy objects is more likely to be approved for full benefits than someone with a similar disability who has a college education and some office work in the past. SSA might find that the latter person can still perform sedentary work and deny their claim.
Appealing a denied application
Every claim is different, but SSA denies nearly 70 percent of initial claims. While nothing is guaranteed, your best chance of success on appeal is working with an experienced SSDI attorney to provide a strong, evidence-based case for why you are entitled to disability benefits.