Many people hold the perception that Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is only for older Americans. That’s not true. Anyone age 18-64 can apply for – and potentially secure – SSDI benefits.

Age, however, is a factor the Social Security Administration (SSA) takes into account when reviewing an application. Just how much does age matter? Here’s an explanation.

Age and your ability to work

One of the key factors measured in an SSDI claim is whether the applicant is still able to work. If the individual can no longer do the same type of work they had been doing, then the SSA asks another question: Can this person potentially adjust to a new type of work?

During this stage, the SSA will look at an individual’s residual functional capacity, education, work experience and age in order to make a determination.

Is age a limiting factor in getting new work?

For older Americans, finding a new job is hard. There are many reasons why, including the continued problem of ageism.

The SSA takes this reality into account. Generally, the older you are, the more seriously the SSA believes it will affect your ability to do a new type of work. For applicants under 50, the SSA doesn’t much consider age as a factor in their ability to adjust to new work. (There are exceptions – this is not a hard-and-fast rule.)

On the other hand, being of “advanced age” (meaning 55-59 years old) “significantly affects” someone’s ability to adjust to other work, in the eyes of the SSA. There are also special rules for applicants above the age of 60.

While age is never the sole factor for the SSA in determining whether to award or deny a claim, it can be one of the elements considered. This underscores the importance of understanding all the ins and outs of the SSDI claims process, and tailoring your application to present the strongest case.