Monthly Update: Social Security

by Jennifer Scherf

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The law states that, to be found disabled, a worker must have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) of such severity that he or she is not only unable to do previous work, but cannot, considering his or her age, education and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work that exists in the national economy.


The regulations provide that older age is an increasingly adverse vocational factor for persons with severe impairments. The chronological ages 50, 55 and 60 are weighty factors considered when determining disability. Individuals who are 18 to 44 are considered young individuals, those 45 to 49 are younger individuals, those 50 to 54 are considered to be approaching advanced age, and 55 and over individuals are considered to be at an advanced age.


Unless there is evidence to contradict a person’s statement as to his or her numerical grade level completed in school, the statement will be used to determine the person’s educational abilities. The person’s present level of reasoning, communication and arithmetical ability may be higher or lower than the level of formal education. Evidence of this includes the kinds of responsibilities the person had when working, any acquired work skills, daily activities, and hobbies, as well as the results of testing. Therefore, a person will meet the criteria for the different education levels specified in the regulations, not solely on the basis of his or her statements, but based upon all evidence pertinent to evaluating that person’s educational capacities.

Previous Work Experience.

A person’s work experience may be none, not vocationally relevant, unskilled, semiskilled or skilled. To meet the criterion of “skilled or semiskilled — skills transferable,” a person must have performed work that is above the unskilled level of complexity, must have identifiable skills, and must be able to use these skills in specific skilled or semiskilled occupations within his or her functional ability level.

This previous work experience becomes extremely important as you get to the higher age classifications. To prove you are disabled before age 50, you have to prove that you cannot do any type of work that exists in the national economy. Between the ages of 51 and 54, you have to prove that you cannot do any type of job in which the skills you learned in the last 15 years would transfer. After age 55, you only need to show that you are unable to do the exact type of work you have done in the past 15 years.

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