Some individuals who are over the age of 65 may not have the desire or financial ability to retire, but become disabled and are unable to continue working. Individuals who don't wish to start collecting Social Security retirement benefits may be eligible to receive Social Security Disability benefits if they can prove a disability keeps them from working. (You can't collect Social Security retirement and disability at the same time.) See our article on collecting disability and retirement for why collecting disability can be better than starting to collect retirement.
Social Security adds a few distinctions to the rules for those who are over 65 when applying for benefits. In general, these rules help those over 65 in the evaluation process.
The rules that apply to those over 65 can be divided by the method of qualifying for disability benefits. Individuals over 65 can qualify for benefits in two ways.
For those who are over 65, the same rules apply for meeting or equaling a listing, but Social Security requires some extra consideration for those over the age of 65, as follows.
Thorough review. When an applicant is over 65, Social Security rules require the claims examiner or administrative law judge (ALJ) to carefully review the applicant's medical record to identify any possible age-related impairments, such as decreased hearing ability or eyesight, decreased physical strength, or memory loss due to the aging process. The applicant must be asked to fill out a questionnaire to show what limitations the individual is having in their daily life. In addition, when speaking to the applicant, the examiner or ALJ should be on the lookout for statements that may raise concerns about age-related impairments (for example, “I don’t read much anymore because I can’t see too well” or “My son said he visited me the other day, but I don’t remember seeing him”). The examiner or ALJ should also be aware that statements from people who know the applicant may raise more considerations about possible impairments.
Impairments can't be dismissed. Social Security rules also note that the examiner or judge cannot dismiss age-related impairments such as arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, poor vision or hearing, certain cancers, or memory impairments as being normal for the person's age.
Length of age-related impairments. Social Security rules direct examiners and judges to carefully consider the facts before determining that an individual over the age of 65 will not be disabled for at least 12 months (and so is not eligible for disability benefits because of the durational rule). The reasoning is that age-related impairments are more likely to be long-term ailments instead of ailments that can be cured or controlled within a short time span.
For those over 65 who don't meet or equal a listing but are unable to work, Social Security looks at how the applicant's impairments could affect the workplace. There are two distinctions, however, for those over the age of 65. First, there are individuals who will automatically be deemed disabled if they fall into a special profile that has been established by Social Security. Second, there are the effects of age on the determination of your ability to work that is less demanding than your prior jobs.
Special profiles. There are two categories of workers who will automatically qualify for benefits that are age-related and can apply to those over 65. The two categories are for:
Grids. When determining if an individual is able to do any job, Social Security will consider individual’s age as a factor. Social Security places the ages into different categories, the highest category being ages 60 and up. This is the age bracket that will be used to assess people over the age of 65. Based on the rules for that age bracket, Social Security will find you disabled, and eligible for a medical-vocational allowance, in the following situations.
If you aren't disabled according to the above scenarios, there are other ways to prove you deserve disability benefits. For more information, see our article on using the medical-vocational grids for those 60 and older.