Disability Benefits for People After Age 50

Applicants over the age of 50 have an easier time qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits than a younger applicant. One of the biggest reasons is that, generally, the older you are, the longer you will have worked.

To be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, a worker has to not only meet stringent medical requirements, but he or she must have worked for a certain amount of time prior to becoming disabled. A claimant will also need to have worked recently to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. One of the leading reasons for being denied is that an applicant does not have enough work credits to be eligible.

How Long Do I Have To Work To Receive Social Security’s Disability Insurance Benefits?

The length of time you need to have worked in order to qualify for SSDI benefits will vary depending on your age. Qualification for SSDI is measured in social security credits. The SSA quantifies your work history in terms of work credits. You acquire credits for paying social security taxes on your income.

In 2022, you will get one credit for each $1,510 you earn in employment or self-employment. You are entitled to a maximum of four credits for $6,040 or more earned in a year.

The credit amount is adjusted annually based on national wage trends. Every October, the Social Security Administration (SSA) releases details of all the changes to expect in the upcoming year. An applicant must pass two different work-related tests in order to potentially receive benefits:

Recent Work Test

Under the recent work test, you must have worked for a specific number of years in the period just before you became disabled.

If you become disabled in or before the calendar quarter in which you turn 24, you must have earned at least six credits, which is equivalent to a year and half of work in the prior three years, to pass the recent work test.

Between the ages of 24 and 31, you must have worked at least half the time since you turned 21. For example, if you become disabled in the quarter in which you turned 29, you will need to have 16 credits (worked four years) in the previous 8 years.

Beyond the age of 31, you must have worked for five years or accumulated 20 credits before you became disabled.

Duration of Work Test

The second work-related test is called the duration of work test. The duration of the work test measures how much work you did over the course of your life. You must have at least as many credits as the number of years since you turned 22.

So if you become disabled at 40, you require 4 and half years of work, or 18 credits. If you become disabled at 50, you require 7 years of work, or 28 credits. If you become disabled at 60, you require 9 and half years of work, or 38 credits.

Once you pass 40 credits, you pass the duration of the work test, no matter your age.

The SSA classifies people between the ages of 50 to 54 as “closely approaching advanced age.” According to the SSA, this age significantly affects a person’s ability to adjust to other work.

People who are 55 and above are considered “persons of advanced age.” The SSA becomes more lenient when it comes to deciding whether you must adjust to a different kind of job.

Social Security Disability Grid Rules

The grid rules help the SSA evaluate how disabled an individual is, regardless of medical condition or diagnosis. The four significant factors considered are:

Residual Functional Capacity (RFC)

Your RFC determines how much strength-related work you can do (walking, standing, lifting, pushing, stooping etc.). It refers to the maximum level of work you can do despite your disability. After your medical records are examined, your RFC is assessed.

The goal of the RFC is to identify how your disability and resulting limitations prevent you from working.

The SSA uses four categories of “functioning capacity” which are:

  • Sedentary Work: Sedentary work involves lifting less than 10 pounds.
  • Light Work: Light work requires lifting 10 pounds frequently, while occasionally lifting up to 20 pounds.
  • Medium Work: Medium work includes the frequent lifting of more than 25 pounds and occasionally lifting up to 50 pounds.
  • Heavy Work: Finally, heavy work includes lifting more than 50 pounds frequently.


The level of education you have completed plays an important role in your eligibility for disability benefits.

Those with limited education are probably more likely to collect disability benefits. People with limited education and skills perform more physical work and are less likely to switch to an office job.

Working Experience

The SSA will factor in how you performed in your previous jobs. The less skilled you are, the greater your chances of receiving benefits..

A more skilled worker can easily transition to a job that requires lesser skills.

Transferability of Skills

The SSA will determine if you can transfer skills from your last job to a new or similar job.

The SSA recognizes that transitioning to a new job or field may be more difficult for a person above 50 than a younger person.

If you need help or have questions about Social Security disability, a San Antonio Social Security Disability lawyer can help. If you’re disabled, these individuals can personally review your work history. They can also put together a thorough and vivid description of the work you have done in the past and how you are no longer able to perform those duties.

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