This article is the second in a series of posts about social security. It is written by PSRB Attorney Daniel E. Blakesley.
AGE AND THE SSDI APPLICATION
Social Security recognizes that there are additional factors beyond your functional capacity that may impact your ability to work. Your education and vocational skills play a role in the evaluation process, but your age is also an extremely important element in determining whether you qualify for benefits. People under 50 years old are considered to be younger individuals by Social Security, while those aged 50-54 are deemed to be approaching advanced age and applicants aged 55 or older are at advanced age. Generally, the application process becomes more lenient as you age. Social Security uses a set of rules known as the medical-vocational grid when determining the effect of your age on your application when considered together with your functional capacity, skill level and education. An adult over 50 years old with a high school diploma and a history of performing unskilled work would qualify for SSDI if the evidence showed that they were only capable of sedentary work, whereas someone in their 30s would not qualify for benefits with the same exact functional capacity and background.
PROVING YOU ARE DISABLED- THE APPLICATION PROCESS
In attempting to qualify for SSDI, the first step in the process involves completing an application for benefits. You can apply online at www.ssa.gov or you can call your local office and schedule an appointment to complete an application with the assistance of a Social Security representative. Social Security will then request all of your medical records and review them. In doing so, they will first look to whether you suffer from any condition that falls within their listing of impairments. The listing of impairments contains conditions considered by Social Security to be disabling enough to prevent you from performing substantial gainful activity. You may qualify for benefits simply by having been diagnosed with one of these conditions, but it is not a requirement as long as you have a condition or conditions that prevent you from performing substantial gainful activity.
Social Security typically takes anywhere from three to six months to review your initial application, at which point they will mail you a decision. If they deny your application, you are given 60 days to appeal the decision. The first appeal prompts an administrative review, and you can expect to receive another decision in a few months. If your appeal is denied, you must appeal again, which causes your case to be scheduled for a hearing in front of an Administrative Judge at Social Security. If you have not yet retained the services of an attorney to assist you with your application, it is highly advisable that you do so well in advance of your hearing. The hearing is your best possible chance to qualify for benefits and must be handled correctly.