Most of us know that the Social Security Administration pays older, retired workers monthly checks. However, the Social Security Administration (SSA) also provides two benefit programs for those with medical, psychological, or psychiatric disabilities: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). If you are disabled, and if you need to receive benefits, the differences between the two programs will be important.

Your age is important too. How does someone’s age affect the Social Security disability application process? A disability applicant’s age is one of several key factors that determine whether an applicant can receive disability benefits, the kind of benefits, and their duration. Listed here are the various ways that someone’s age impacts his or her eligibility to receive Social Security disability benefits:


Children often have special physical, medical, and psychological needs. Some of those children are eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits. However, since SSDI payments are based on an applicant’s employment history, children will not usually qualify for SSDI because they haven’t earned paychecks or paid Social Security taxes. That makes the SSI program the best option in most cases for disabled children under age 18. Still, qualifying for SSI can be quite a challenge.

SSI is a needs-based benefit program that considers a family’s size, their monthly bills, and other aspects of a family’s finances. If a family qualifies financially, the SSA will then decide if the child meets the medical requirements for disability benefits. In most cases, initial applications are rejected, so families will need to pursue the appeals process. In Southern California, an experienced Los Angeles Social Security disability lawyer can help families who are seeking SSI benefits for a disabled child. When a child receiving SSI benefits turns 18, the SSA then determines if the new adult meets the adult qualifications for disability benefits.


In some circumstances, the children of adults who are receiving SSDI benefits may be eligible to receive SSDI auxiliary benefits. However, the children of adult SSDI recipients are only eligible for SSDI auxiliary benefits if they are under the age of 18, if they are 18 or 19 and still a full-time student at or below the 12th-grade level, or if they are 18 or older and became disabled before the age of 22.


The Social Security Administration considers several factors to establish an individual’s eligibility for SSDI or SSI benefits, and age is one of those factors. The SSA has established age categories for adults who are seeking disability benefits. Those age 18 to 44 are classified as “young,” and those age 45 to 49 are classified as “younger,” while benefit applicants age 50 to 54 are classified as “approaching advanced age,” those 55 and over are classified as “advanced age,” and applicants age 60 to 65 are classified as “approaching retirement age.”

The SSA uses these age classifications, along with an applicant’s “residual functional capacity” (or “RFC,” the person’s ability to do several kinds of work), the skill level required for the applicant’s previous work, and the applicant’s education to determine if an applicant qualifies as “disabled.” For instance, someone age 47 without a high-school diploma and limited to sedentary work would likely be denied benefits, but the same person at age 52 would probably be approved for disability benefits. The SSA recognizes four RFC categories that describe the work an individual may be able to do in spite of a disabling condition or conditions. These categories are:

• sedentary work: the lifting of no more than ten pounds at any time
• light work: the lifting of no more than ten pounds frequently and no more than twenty pounds occasionally
• medium work: the ability to lift twenty-five pounds frequently and fifty pounds occasionally
• heavy work: the frequent lifting of more than fifty pounds.

Because SSDI benefits are based on an applicant’s employment history, anyone applying for SSDI disability benefits must have a history of paying Social Security taxes. When you work and pay those taxes, you earn up to four “credits” a year. In 2016, you must have earned $1,260 to get one Social Security work credit and $5,040 to get the maximum four credits for the year. The number of work credits needed for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.

The rules for eligibility tend to favor those applicants who are “approaching advanced age,” that is, 50 to 54. If an applicant in that age range is limited to sedentary work and does not have skills that are transferable to other kinds of work, approval for disability benefits is likely. The SSA does not require workers who are approaching advanced age to endure lengthy vocational adjustment and retraining.

The rules most favor disability applicants who are age 55 and older. The Social Security Administration expects little vocational adjustment at that age. Still, if you are 49, 54, or 59 years old, and if you will be eligible to receive disability benefits at age 50, 55, or 60, Social Security may deal with your application for disability benefits as if you had already reached the next age classification.


If someone becomes disabled at or after his or her full retirement age (now age 67 for those born in or after 1960), that person does not need to apply for Social Security disability benefits. For those already receiving SSDI disability benefits before they reach full retirement age, the SSDI disability benefits automatically become their retirement benefits when they reach full retirement age.

If all of the above sounds complicated, it’s only the start and can get more complicated. For younger applicants it is more difficult to earn a disability award when compared to the oder demagraphic. For this reason, many younger applicants apply for  local university scholarships, local company scholarships and other aid opportunities offered by local associations. Applying for Social Security disability benefits is difficult, perplexing, and time-consuming – no matter how old or young you are. If you make a mistake with the application, your benefits could be postponed or your application could even be rejected. Obtain the help of an experienced Los Angeles Social Security disability lawyer if you can’t work and you aren’t yet receiving disability benefits, or if you need Social Security disability benefits for a disabled child.