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At What Age can you Collect Social Security?

A young employee working on a pile of paper works Individuals under 50 years old and applying for social security disability benefits could have a more difficult case than a claimant whose is more than 50 years of age.  There is no specific age you have to be to collect social security disability benefits.  Individuals between 19 and 50 are considered “young workers” and have more exertional and mental hurdles to overcome than older claimants. Individuals, whether they are under 50 (and considered younger workers) or those workers over 50 (and considered workers approaching advanced age) who are seeking disability benefits should have strong medical documentation from their health care providers and seek the assistance of a social security lawyer to help build a strong disability case.  It is harder to receive disability benefits than at any time in history.  The percentage of claimants receiving disability benefits today is much lower than just 2 years ago and continues to get more difficult.  It is critical now to have good legal representation; otherwise, you could be denied benefits from unfavorable decisions and be without monthly benefits for years – costing you tens of thousands in income.  The stakes are too high to be without an experienced social security attorney working for you to get the benefits you deserve.

Benefits are awarded more easily to workers over 50 years of age because the Administrative Law Judge looks closely at the claimant’s ability to do his or her own occupation or regular job.  If the over 50 year old claimant is unable to perform his or her occupation or vocation due to physical or mental impairments, the claimant will be more likely to get disability benefits.  Whereas a younger claimant (under age 50 years of age) who is unable to do his or her regular job duties, will not be able to rely on his or her inability to work his or her own occupation but will have to do any other job that he or she is capable of preforming, mentally or physically.  Under fifty years of age, the court will assess your exertional and non exertional abilities to see if you can perform the activities of a sedentary occupation, or if you are capable of light or medium work. If you are under the age of fifty, it is not important whether you could execute your previous job responsibilities, but whether you are capable of doing any type of full-time work (sedentary, light or medium work) based upon your limitations or impairments. 

The nature and extent of functional limitations can be the determining factor in whether a significant number of jobs are available for people under the age of 50. The SSA relies on vocational expert testimony to determine if there is significant depletion of job skills allowing the claimant to preform sedentary, light, or medium job occupation skills.   The ability to do skilled or semi-skilled jobs, light work or medium work, opens more job options for the claimant and makes a determination of disability more difficult.  The more a claimant can do makes it more difficult for him or her to get a favorable decision.  After all, if you can work, you are not entitled to benefits.

SSA Impairment Listings

The Social Security Administration (SSA) will make an initial decision on whether your impairments are on the “listing of impairments.”  On the “listing of impairments” are a number of medical conditions that the SSA will approve for a disability.  If the individual meets the requirements on the impairments listing they can get benefits at any age.   The listing does have some detailed requirements and there is also a “Compassionate Allowances List.”  Individuals with severe medical conditions on the “Compassionate Allowances List” can be awarded benefits by the SSA at any age.

The Social Security Administration “Grids”

The “grids” are tables of information the SSA uses to determine if a claimant is disabled based on age, education, and previous work experience.  The “grids” are generally not as favorable for an individual under 50 years old, as the “grids” will generally find the individual able to work. For example, in a grid for sedentary work, a younger individual who is illiterate or unable to communicate in English and is unskilled would be disabled.  If the claimant is not illiterate or if he or she can communicate in English, then they would not be disabled.  A “grid” finding is not the final ruling in a Social Security Disability case for individuals under 50 years old.  Other impairments, like depression or personality disorders can tip the scale in favor of the claimant, allowing a ruling that he or she is disabled.  A lawyer specializing in social security disability can challenge the grid in his or her attempt to get the claimants benefits they deserve.  

Less than Sedentary Residual Functional Capacity

If an individual cannot work a sedentary job the Social Security Administration could consider them disabled no matter the age.  A sedentary job is normally considered to be a job where the worker sits most of the day. However, more precisely, sedentary work is limited to:  lifting no more than 10 pounds at one time, or occasionally carrying small items such as files or small tools, for no longer than a total of 2 hours in any workday, and sitting for approximately 6 hours in an 8-hour workday, and standing or walking for a total of 2 hours in an 8-hour work day .

The ability to do sedentary work can be hampered by mental disabilities.   If an individual cannot follow directions, stay on task or complete simple tasks on time, then he or she would not be competitive in the workplace and SSA might award the claimant benefits.  Medical documentation of disabilities and impairments is vital to win Social Security Disability cases.  The more medical documentation the individual has will help the SSD attorney in building a strong case.  Your social security attorney can give reports for your physician or care provider to complete that indicates how severe your condition is and what exertional and non exertional limitations would prevent you from doing substantial gainful activity.


Individuals who believe they are disabled to work should see healthcare professionals and doctors to be evaluated.  If the individual is seeking disability they should contact a lawyer specializing in Social Security Disability.  Lawyers can help you collect social security benefits you deserve.

Mortimer Law Firm, PLC- Michigan Social Security Lawyers

Phone: (989) 358-2100