When the Social Security Administration considers an application, it applies a sequential, five-step process to determine whether you meet the definition of "disability." This article focuses on the medical-vocational part of the process as it applies to "older" workers.
The first quesiton is whether you have been doing any signficant and gainful activity. Then, if the Social Security Administration finds that you have a "severe" impairment, but that you do not meet a "impairment listing," it then has to determine your "residual functional capacity." Your residual functional capacity is what you can still physically and mentally tolerate in a sustained work setting.
For Claimants under 50 years old, if you retained the residual functional ability to do any other jobs that exist in the national economy, then you are not disabled. However, at age 50, the rules change.
Social Security recognizes the difficulty for older workers in adjusting to new work. If you are age 50 to 54, you are considered to be "closely approaching advanced age." If you are 55 to 60, Social Security will consider you to be at an "advanced age." Finally, from age 60 to 65, you are considered to be "closely approaching retirement age."
Social Security will use these age groups, along with your residual functional capacity and past skill level to determine disability. For example, if you are over 50 years of age, have a little formal education, and are limited to sedentary work, you will likely be found disabled. The Administration uses a "grid" to determine whether you meet this criteria.
In other words, it is possible to be found disabled under the statute, even if there's some kind of work that you could still perform if you are an older worker.
To learn more about the application process, call us at 503-325-8600 with your questions. You can also order our free book.