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Social Security Disability Rules After Age 50

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is available to people with an illness or injury that impedes their ability to work. If you’re older and considering applying for this program, it’s important to know how Social Security Disability rules after age 50 differ from requirements for younger applicants. The Social Security disability attorneys at Nappa, Monterosso & Poznansky, LLP, help clients of all ages in the greater New York City area navigate the Social Security system. Here, they explain how SSDI rules after 50 may affect your claim.

What Are the Social Security Administration GRID Rules?

All applicants must meet the Social Security Disability requirements for medical conditions that qualify for SSDI. However, if you’re 50 or older, the Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes that physical and mental limitations may become more challenging. SSA Grid Rules are factors that the Social Security Administration uses to determine whether someone over 50 qualifies for SSDI.

These factors include:


If you’re 50 or older and unable to work, the SSA Grid Rules may apply to your case, as it is often more difficult for older workers to learn new job skills or transition into a new workplace.

Claimants are divided into the following age groups:

  • Younger individuals – 18 to 49 years old
  • Closely approaching advanced age – 50 to 54 years old
  • Advanced age – 55 to 59 years old
  • Closely approaching retirement age – 60 and older

If you’re a younger person, the SSA usually doesn’t consider your age as a significant factor in your ability to adjust to other work. In rare circumstances, the SSA may consider people aged 45 to 49 more limited in their ability to adjust to other work than people younger than 45.

Residual Functional Capacity

Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) is an assessment of your ability to perform tasks despite the limitations that your medical condition has caused. The lower your RFC score, the more likely it is that you will be approved to receive Social Security Disability benefits. Typically, the RFC evaluates whether a person can perform actions such as walking, pushing, lifting, and standing.

The SSA categorizes residual functioning capacity into four categories of work:

  • Sedentary – A person cannot lift more than 10 pounds
  • Light – A person can lift 10 pounds but no more than 20 pounds on an occasional basis
  • Medium – A person can consistently lift 25 pounds
  • Heavy – A person can lift 50 pounds regularly

If you’re able to perform strenuous work or lift heavy items regularly, qualifying for Social Security Disability Insurance is challenging. However, other factors such as education and skill level can play a role in determining your eligibility. Hiring an SSDI lawyer can increase your chances of a successful claim.


The SSA also evaluates education level when determining if someone over 50 qualifies for SSDI. Education levels include:

  • Illiterate or unable to communicate
  • Marginal education – 6th grade level or lower
  • Limited education level – 7th to 11th grade level
  • High school diploma or college degree

If you’ve completed a recent educational program that provided skilled job training, the SSA will take that into account as well. Generally, the less education you have, the better your chances are of being approved for SSDI. However, the SSA’s final decision will rest on the consideration of all four factors.

Previous Work Experience and Transferability of Skills

Based on your previous work experience, your abilities will be classified as skilled, semi-skilled, or unskilled. The SSA uses a transferability of skills assessment (TSA) to determine a claimant’s ability to perform substantial gainful work activity. This means they will assess whether skills from your previous job could transfer to a new and similar position. For example, if the work you used to do is unskilled and you can perform only light work, you may have a better chance of obtaining Social Security Disability benefits compared to someone who’s classified as skilled.

Social Security Disability Reviews After Age 50

Regardless of age, people who receive SSDI benefits are subject to continuing disability reviews (CDR) to assess whether they continue to meet the criteria for disability. The SSA recognizes that people older than 50 may be more likely to suffer from permanent or long-term disability, so the frequency of CDRs may decrease if you’re in this age group.

How a New York Social Security Disability Lawyer Can Help

This is a just brief overview of the Social Security Disability Rules after age 50. Understanding how the GRID Rules can impact your Social Security Disability claim can be confusing. An SSDI attorney at Nappa, Monterosso & Poznansky, LLP, can help you navigate the complex terrain of the Social Security Disability application process and advise you of the best path forward. We also can assist you through the appeals process if you’ve received a Social Security Disability denial. Attorney and partner Rolando Cubela proudly serves our Spanish-speaking clients.

Contact an SSDI Lawyer in the Greater New York City Area

The workers’ compensation lawyers and SSDI attorneys at Nappa, Monterosso & Poznansky, LLP, are dedicated to continuing the tradition of representing injured workers on Staten Island and throughout the greater NYC area. To schedule a free consultation with a Social Security Disability lawyer in the greater NYC area, call us at 718-273-9000 or contact us online.

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