Applying for Disability After Age 55

Posted May 12, 2023 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Getting disability benefits when you’re older than 55 can be easier than when you’re younger, thanks to a special set of rules called the medical-vocational grid. The grid rules are aimed at people closer to retirement age who can’t do their past work. The rules let the Social Security Administration (SSA) consider factors that can make it difficult for these people to switch jobs— factors like whether they have any skills that transfer to other work.

While most people younger than 50 need to show that they can’t perform the easiest sit-down jobs before the SSA can find them disabled, people over the age of 50 might get disability even if they can do a sit-down job. And if you’re 55 or older and can do a half-standing, half-sitting job, you could still qualify for disability benefits.

What Are the Social Security Disability Rules After Age 55?

Social Security categorizes disability applicants between the ages of 55 and 59 as “advanced age.” Within this category, Social Security’s grid rules are divided into tables based on exertional levels. Exertional levels describe the most weight you can carry and the longest you can be on your feet during a work day.

Your exertional level is an important part of your residual functional capacity (RFC). Here are some of the exertional levels that Social Security uses:

  • Sedentary work requires you to lift up to 10 pounds and stand or walk for 2 hours total.
  • Light work requires you to lift up to 20 pounds and stand or walk for 6 hours total.
  • Medium work requires you to lift up to 50 pounds and stand or walk for 6 hours total.
  • Heavy work requires you to lift up to 100 pounds and stand or walk for 6 hours total.

You won’t be able to get disability under the grid rules if you can physically perform heavy work, and if you can perform medium work, you can only qualify if you have a limited education and have never worked before.

But if you can do only light or sedentary work, the SSA will use the grid rules to see if the rules “direct a finding of disability” based on additional factors, such as your level of education.

Using the Grid Rules Over 55

Below are the grid rules for people between the ages of 55 and 59 who have an RFC for sedentary work. Find the rows that best describe your education level and previous work experience. The third column shows the decision the SSA will make based on those two factors.


EducationPrevious Work ExperienceDecision
11th grade education or lowerUnskilled work or no past relevant workDisabled
11th grade education or lowerSkilled or semiskilled work without transferable skillsDisabled
11th grade education or lowerSkilled or semi-skilled work with transferable skillsNot disabled
High school graduate or higherUnskilled work or no past relevant workDisabled
High school graduate or higherSkilled or semiskilled work without transferable skillsDisabled
High school graduate or higherSkilled or semi-skilled work with transferable skillsNot disabled
Recent education or training for skilled workUnskilled work or no past relevant workNot disabled
Recent education or training for skilled workSkilled or semi-skilled work with or without transferable skillsNot disabled

Examples of Using the 55-59 Grid Rules

Here are some examples of when a person in the advanced age category can be approved based on the grids.

  • Selma is a 57-year-old woman who applied for disability based on her diabetes, which made it hard for her to stand for longer than one hour during the workday. She had a high school education but hadn’t worked for 25 years. The SSA determined that Selma had the RFC to perform sedentary work only. The grids directed a finding of disabled and Selma’s application for benefits was approved.
  • Lars is a 56-year-old man who applied for disability because of moderate emphysema. He had a 10th-grade education and had worked his whole life as a commercial fisherman. The SSA found that Lars shouldn’t lift more than 20 pounds due to his emphysema and gave him an RFC for light work. Because Lars didn’t have any transferable skills from his job as a fisherman, he was approved under the grids.

Here are some examples of when a person over 55 would be found not disabled:

  • Owen is a 55-year-old man who filed for disability due to arthritis in both knees. He had a college education, and his past work was as a hotel manager. The SSA determined that Owen had an RFC for sedentary work, but that he had transferable skills including the ability to manage groups and interact with customers. Given these factors, the grids directed a finding of not disabled.
  • Tina is a 58-year-old woman who filed for disability based on hepatitis C. Tina had a GED and some college credits. The SSA determined that Tina’s hepatitis C symptoms limited her to medium work. Because of her education level and medium RFC, Tina was denied under the grids.

What If the Grid Rules Say “Not Disabled”

Even if the grid rules don’t direct a finding of disabled, you can still get benefits if you can show your limitations actually prevent you from doing the kind of work the SSA says you can do. Because the grid rules only address exertional levels, you can qualify for benefits if you have a combination of exertional and non-exertional limitations that prevent you from working. Mental limitations are one type of non-exertional limitations that can keep you from using the transferable skills you might have learned.

Another common way to win is to prove you can’t even do a sit-down job. For instance, if you have carpal tunnel syndrome but the SSA denied you benefits because you had a sedentary RFC, a college education, and transferable job skills, you could appeal and show that your inability to use your hands and fingers doesn’t allow you to do any sedentary jobs.

Contact an Attorney for Help If You’re Older Than 55

Many claimants who are 55 or older have better odds of winning their disability case using the grids. But the nuances of applying the grids can be tricky, especially for highly skilled applicants or people with complicated RFCs. You might want to consider contacting an experienced disability attorney to help you navigate the grid rules and handle communication with Social Security.      

Tips for a Successful SSDI Interview

Posted April 28, 2023 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can be an overwhelming process, and the prospect of an interview with the Social Security Administration (SSA) can be daunting. However, being well-prepared can make a significant difference in the outcome of your interview. Here are some essential tips to help you ace it and increase your chances of obtaining the benefits you need.

  1. Be Prepared With Essential Documentation 

Before your interview, make sure you gather all of the necessary documentation, including your medical records, employment history, and any relevant financial information. Having these documents on hand will help ensure you provide accurate and complete information during the interview, making it easier for the SSA to assess your eligibility.

  1. Understand Your Condition and Limitations

Take some time to thoroughly understand your medical condition and how it impacts your ability to work. This includes knowing the details of your diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis. Being able to effectively communicate the specifics of your condition and how it limits your daily activities will help the interviewer understand the severity of your disability. 

  1. Be Honest and Accurate

Honesty is crucial during your SSDI interview. Provide accurate and truthful information about your disability, work history, and financial situation. Remember, the SSA will review your medical records and verify your information, so being honest will only help your case.

  1. Be Clear and Concise 

When answering questions, try to be as clear and concise as possible. Focus on the key points that demonstrate your need for disability benefits, and try to avoid providing irrelevant information. This will help the interviewer understand your overall situation better and make it easier for them to assess your eligibility. 

A successful SSDI interview is crucial for obtaining the disability benefits you need. By following these tips and adequately preparing for your interview, you can increase your chances of a favorable outcome. For additional information on how to prepare for your interview, you can also check out this article from SSA’s blog.

Understanding SSDI Eligibility for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Posted April 20, 2023 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a complex neurological and developmental disorder that affects how people interact and communicate with those around them. It typically appears during early childhood and may vary in severity of symptoms depending on the person. Some individuals with ASD can live completely independently, while others may need more support. 

Adults living with ASD can have difficulty participating in the workforce due to difficulties in communication, social interaction, and daily functioning. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD) benefits can offer much-needed support for those whose symptoms limit their ability to work or their employment opportunities. Understanding the eligibility criteria for SSDI benefits is crucial for individuals with ASD, as this knowledge can empower them to seek the financial assistance they may be entitled to. 

To qualify for SSDI benefits with ASD, one must:

  1. Have a medical diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) 
  2. Demonstrate significant impairments in social, communicative, or behavioral functioning
  3. Be unable to work or maintain full-time employment as a direct result of their ASD symptoms
  4. Have a work history that has contributed to the Social Security system through payroll taxes

When applying for SSDI benefits, it’s important to gather comprehensive evidence from your physicians, therapists, or specialists that detail your medical history and the impact of your ASD symptoms on your daily life and work abilities. 

To learn more information about ASD, you can also check out these resources: