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Social Security Disability Rules After Age 50

Many young people who enter the workforce today may qualify for other benefits before reaching retirement ageナ

What Are the Social Security Disability Rules After Age 50?

According to a survey done by Disability Secrets, only about half (51%) of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) applicants are approved and receive their social security benefits. 

The approval rates gradually increase with the applicants’ age. The company found that applicants between 40 and 49 were approved for SSDI in 42% of cases. Applicants between 50 and 54 were approved in 49% of cases, and applicants between 55 and 59 were approved in 57% of cases. The eldest group that was surveyed fell between 60 and 65 years. This group had a success rate of 62% in being granted Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.

What is Social Security Disability Insurance?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits people who cannot work due to serious and long-lasting impairments. The benefits are paid out to the insured individual or their family members. Insured persons, their spouses, or parents would have had to have worked for a certain amount of time and recently enough while paying Social Security taxes on their earnings to claim benefits.

SSDI is managed and administered through the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA establishes whether a disabled individual is eligible for benefits based on their medical and financial eligibility. In these cases, only an individual’s financial situation is considered, not their household income.

The Social Security Disability Insurance program funds come through the Social Security Trust Fund from money collected from taxpayers. Both employees and employers contribute to the Social Security Trust Fund by paying Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes.

To receive a monthly benefit from SSDI, an individual should have worked a minimum amount of time and thus contributed a certain amount to the Social Security system through the taxes they paid.

The Social Security Disability Insurance Program (SSDI) differs from the Supplemental Security Income Program (SSI). Only insured persons who have contributed to the Social Security trust fund through paying FICA taxes are eligible for SSDI. On the other hand, funds for Supplemental Security Income come from general tax revenues; that way, anyone can apply for SSI benefits.

It is possible to be eligible for and receive benefits from both programs. The system uses the term “concurrent” to describe individuals who are eligible for claiming disability benefits under both the SSDI and SSI programs.

Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits and Work Credits

Only insured people could be eligible for receiving Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. The applicant should have worked for a certain amount of time reasonably recently and have earned work credits. These credits are earned when you work and pay your social security tax. 

In most cases, if you were born after 1928, you need to have earned at least 40 Social Security credits to qualify for Social Security benefits. However, the number of credits you have earned will not affect your benefits. Your spouse or children could also receive benefits based on your earned credits.

Credit is based on the amount of money you earn, and you can earn up to four credits each year. The minimum amount you need to earn each month to be awarded a work credit could change yearly. For example, in 2022, you could receive one Social Security credit for every $1,510 of covered earnings each year.

When calculating the monthly benefits you might receive, the average of your wages over the number of years that you have worked and not the number of credits earned are taken into account. Still, you must have accumulated the minimum number of credits to be eligible for benefits.

The number of credits you require to receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits depends on your age, assuming you will apply for these benefits before you reach full retirement age. Candidates should meet recent work test and duration work test criteria.

According to the recent work test, persons 31 years and older must have earned at least 20 credits in the 10 years immediately before their disability began.

The duration of the work test is based on your age when your disability began. It stipulates the number of years of work you should have completed before your disability became eligible for claiming from the SSDI program. The number of years worked does not need to fall within a certain period. For example, if you are:

·        50, you will generally have to have worked for ~7 years.

·        52, ~7.5 years.

·        54, ~8 years.

·         56, ~8.5 years.

·         58, ~9 years.

·         60, ~9.5 years.

If you pass away while receiving either retirement or Social Security disability benefits, your survivors will receive survivor benefits (without recalculating your work credits).

What is the process for applying for SSDI through the Social Security Administration?

In most cases, an application for SSDI is handled by a network of local Social Security Administration (SSA) field offices and state agencies, usually called Disability Determination Services (DDSs).

Representatives from the SSA field offices collect applications that can be made in person, online, by telephone, or by mail. The application enquires about the disability that you want to claim. This includes information on the impairment(s), treatment, and any other information that should be considered.

They also need to verify personal information, including your age, whether you are employed and for how long, your marital status, and whether you have Social Security coverage.

Once the information is gathered, your application will be sent to the Disability Determination Services (DDS). The DDS gathers information about the disability. This involves collecting medical evidence and determining whether a claimant (the person applying for disability) meets the legal requirements to be classified as being disabled or blind.

In most cases, the DDS will obtain this information from the medical professionals treating you. The DDS could request a consultative examination (CE) if this information is insufficient. This examination will ideally be conducted by your doctors. However, suppose this cannot be arranged. In that case, the consultative examination might be conducted by a medical professional appointed by the DDS.

The DDS will make its initial determination on your disability based on its findings thus far.

Once the determination is made, your file will be returned to the SSA field office. Suppose the DDS finds that you qualify for Social Security disability benefits. In that case, the SSA will complete any outstanding information, calculate how much money you are eligible for, and start to pay out your benefits.

In cases where the DDS finds no or insufficient evidence of a disability, the SSA will keep your file in the field office if you want to appeal the determination.

What are the general rules for receiving disability aid?

Social Security only pays benefits to individuals with a condition that renders them entirely disabled. No benefits can be received through Social Security for persons who are partially disabled or have a short-term disability.

To be eligible for disability through Social Security, you should not be able to do work or engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA) because of a medical condition. Because of your medical condition, you should not be able to do work that you previously did, nor should you be able to do any other work.

Lastly, this condition should have lasted or be expected to last for at least one year or have a high likelihood of resulting in death.

How do the SSA and SSD determine that I have a qualifying disability?

The SSA and SSD use five questions to determine whether you have a qualifying disability. These five questions are:

1.    Are you working?

Let’s suppose you are working or engaging in a substantial gainful activity and earning more than a specific amount. In that case, you will unlikely be found to have a qualifying disability. Remember that Social Security only pays benefits to individuals who have a total disability. That means you should not be able to do work and earn more than the stipulated minimum amount.

But if you are not employed or performing any substantial gainful activity, the SSA will forward your application to the DDS to investigate your medical status and provide the SSA with their determination.

2.    Is your condition “severe?”

The DDS will investigate whether your medical condition is severe enough to limit your ability to work. This includes completing basic work-related activities like standing, walking, sitting, lifting objects, and remembering information. This limitation should be present or expected to be present for at least twelve months.

If this is found to be true in your case, the DDS will move on to the next question.

3.    Is your condition found in the list of disabling conditions?

The SSA lists medical conditions that relate to the main body systems. This list includes conditions that the SSA considers to be severe enough that it could keep you from engaging in a substantial gainful activity.

If your medical condition does not appear on the list, the DDS needs to establish whether your condition is as severe as one found on the list.

Suppose the DDS finds that you do have a qualifying disability. In that case, your application will go to the SSA to be processed. If not, it will go to the next question.

4.    Can you do the work you did previously?

During this stage, the DDS will determine whether your medical condition(s) stops you from doing any type of work that you’ve done in the past. Suppose the medical condition does not stop you from doing the work you’ve done in the past. In that case, the DDS will determine that you do not have a qualifying disability. If, however, it is proven that you cannot do work you’ve done in the past, you will move on to step five.

5.    Can you do any other type of work?

Suppose you cannot fulfill a role you have filled in the past. In that case, the DDs will investigate to determine whether you can do any other work without being hindered by your medical condition(s).

During this process, they will consider your medical condition, age, education, past work experience, and any transferable skills that you may have that could help you perform a substantial gainful activity.

If you can do other work, you will not qualify for claiming SSDI. If you cannot do other work, you will be approved for claiming SSDI, and your claim will be sent back to the SSA field office for processing.

SSA GRID Rules: Boosting Benefits for People 50+

The GRID refers to the “Medical-Vocational Guidelines” SSA uses to assess disability claims. These guidelines help disability examiners and administrative law judges determine if an individual meets the criteria for receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. The GRID rules consider an applicant’s age, education level, work experience, and the severity of their medical condition to determine eligibility.

For individuals aged 50 and above, the GRID rules work in their favor by easing some of the eligibility requirements. Let’s break down the key aspects of the GRID rules and how they impact benefits for people aged 50+:

1. Age Categories

The GRID divides individuals into ages 50-54, 55-59, and 60-64. As an applicant moves into an older age group, the rules become more lenient, making it easier to qualify for benefits.

2. Residual Functional Capacity (RFC)

RFC refers to the level of work an individual can still perform despite their disability. The GRID rules recognize that adapting to new jobs or retraining for different occupations becomes harder as you age. Thus, the RFC requirements are less stringent for those over 50.

3. Past Work Experience

The GRID acknowledges that individuals aged 50+ may have spent most of their working lives in physically demanding jobs. If their medical condition prevents them from continuing this type of work and they lack transferable skills, they are more likely to be considered disabled under the GRID rules.

4. Education Level

The GRID also considers an applicant’s educational background. For individuals aged 50+ with limited education and job skills, it can be challenging to find new employment that accommodates their disability. The rules account for this by considering the practical challenges of starting a new career.

5. Grid “Rule Numbers”

Each combination of age, education, and work experience corresponds to a specific “rule number.” If an applicant’s medical condition meets the severity outlined in the GRID rule for their specific category, they are deemed eligible for benefits.

It’s important to note that while the GRID rules can favor individuals aged 50+, they are just one piece of the puzzle. Meeting the medical criteria outlined in the SSA’s Listing of Impairments is also crucial for securing benefits. Moreover, an applicant’s ability to present comprehensive medical evidence to support their claim remains essential.

Is it easier to get SSDI after age 50?

In some cases, getting Social Security Disability Insurance benefits might be more accessible after you have turned 50. That is because the SSA uses something called Medical-Vocational Guidelines (often called GRID rules) for people over 50.

These guidelines or rules after fifty can be used to establish disability if you are over 50 or your disability does not meet the requirements stipulated on the SSA’s list of impairments. The rules and guidelines are also different for those older than 55 and 60 years.


The first thing the SSA looks at when applying the GRID rules is your age. You must be 50 years or older for the GRID rules to apply. This age is based on Congress’s distinction between younger individuals and older individuals. This dividing line is used to legally determine a disability for benefits.

When setting up the guidelines, Congress considered that older persons with disabilities are less employable than younger individuals. Thus, older workers between 50 and 54 are labeled as “closely approaching advanced age,” persons between 55 and 59 as “advanced age,” and persons 60 years and older as “closely approaching retirement age.”


According to the guidelines, the SSA considers your education after considering your age. They might look at whether you have graduated from high school, college, or trade school or whether you have any other certifications. All types of education are taken into consideration in this situation.

This is to see how employable you might be. If you are “illiterate or unable to communicate in English,” you have a lower possibility of being employed than someone falling into higher brackets. If your education level is less than a high school graduation, you fall in the “limited or less” category. The highest category is “high school graduate and more.” This category
includes a high school diploma, college degree, or qualification from a trade school.

Past relevant work

Next, the SSA looks at any work experience you gained in your relatively recent past. They look at the last 15 years. They will also consider whether you have any “residual functional capacity.” This refers to any physical ability that you still have after considering your disability.

The SSA Might not take all work into account. For work to count or to be considered, it needs to be a “substantial gainful activity” (SGA). According to the SSA, work is seen as a substantial gainful activity if you earn a specific amount each month. This amount differs each year. For example, for work to be seen as a substantial gainful activity in 2021, you should have earned a minimum gross monthly salary of $1,310. In 2020 that amount was $1,260.

Each month you worked and earned more than the minimum amount counts as one month of SGA or work. Every month worked where you earned less than the minimum amount, you also do not receive any SGA credit.

Any job that does not meet the SGA criteria will not be considered as past work experience.

The SSA looks at your previous jobs to see whether you might have any transferable skills that you could use and other roles. For example, if you used to practice law, you could become a legal consultant or an aid in a legal office. Or, if you worked in retail, you could work as a telephone customer service representative in the retail industry.

Is there any kind of work that you can perform?

After looking at these factors, you may qualify for disability benefits according to the GRID, where you might not have been eligible for any benefits if the GRID was not applied.

Even so, Social Security will determine whether you can still do some kind of work. Based on this, a judge can establish your “residual functional capacity.” During the hearing, where the judge determines this, they will look at your medical records and consider the opinion of your medical team to establish what category of work you can do.

You will be placed in one of five categories. These categories describe the level of exertion you are capable of performing from the least to the most:

·         Sedentary

·         Light

·         Medium

·         Heavy

·         Very heavy

In most cases, if it is found that you can perform heavy or very heavy where you will not be found disabled. For this reason, no GRID chart considers levels of exertion.

In addition to this, the SSA will investigate your other skills. This will determine whether you have any skills gained from past work that you could now use in other jobs. Job skills are classified into three categories: skilled, semi-skilled, and unskilled. Whether or not you have skills from your past work that can now be used in other jobs will be established by a vocational expert at your disability hearing.

Once Social Security has determined your residual functional capacity, they would look at the GRID chart. This chart lists sedentary, light, and medium exertional levels of work.

The chart contains the exertion level and matches it with the applicant’s age, education, and past work. This chart is used to establish whether a person is classified as being disabled or not.

Generally speaking, the older you are, the better your chance of being granted disability benefits because of your employability.

Bear in mind that DDS does not always apply the GRID rules. The GRID Rules offer applicants a way to qualify for disability even if they do not meet the SSA’s and legal criteria. This is the case if the GRID establishes that the person cannot function in a regular job.

For example, if you have a physical condition that limits you to doing sedentary work, like holding a desk job (but you have no skills that can be applied in such a role), and you are over 50, you are likely to qualify and be granted disability benefits.

For how long can I receive disability aid before it stops?

You might find yourself asking: “When does SSD stop?” SSDI may benefit only provide temporary assistance. In most cases, Social Security Disability Insurance benefits continue as long as your medical condition keeps you from being able to work. Still, this does not mean that you will receive disability benefits indefinitely. The SSA will periodically review your medical condition to ensure that you still qualify for disability benefits.

You are also required to advise them if there is a change in your ability to work, if you return to work, or if your medical condition improves to such a degree that you can return to work.

In this case, special rules, called work incentives, will give you continued support, benefits, and health care coverage while you move back into regular work.

Suppose you are receiving SSDI benefits by reaching Social Security’s stipulated full retirement age. In that case, the disability benefits you receive will automatically convert into Social Security Retirement Benefits. In this case, the amount you receive each month will stay the same.

Social Security determines your full retirement age based on the year you were born. It is the age when you are eligible to receive your full retirement benefit amount.

For persons born between 1943 and 1954, the full retirement age is 66 years. The full retirement age slowly increases for persons born between 1955 and 1960 until it reaches 67 years. People born after 1960 become eligible for retirement benefits after age 67.

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