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What To Know About Social Security Disability Rules After Age 60

Last updated: November 18, 2023

After more than 20 years of debate, Congress established the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program in 1956. On August 14, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act, which remains one of the nation's most successful, effective, and popular financial assistance programs. Moreover, it has become the most important source of retirement income in the United States.

The Basics: Social Security Disability Programs

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs assist people who meet the disability requirements.

When you are "insured," that means you have worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes on your earnings to be eligible for SSDI benefits. Adults, senior citizens, and children who meet the requirements for a qualifying disability and have limited income and resources are eligible for SSI benefits.

Why Is Social Security Important For Those Age 60 And Above?

Why Is Social Security Important For Those Age 60 And Above?

Social Security is more than just a retirement plan. It also offers important life insurance and disability insurance coverage. In January 2022, over 65 million people, or more than one in every six Americans, received Social Security benefits. 

While older adults account for roughly four out of every five beneficiaries, the other one-fifth who received Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) were young survivors of deceased workers. Workers earn life insurance and SSDI protection in addition to Social Security retirement benefits by ​making Social Security payroll tax contributions. 

For older adults, Social Security provides the majority of their income. For about half of this age group, it provides at least 50 percent of their income, and for about one in four older adults, it provides at least 90 percent of their income. 

Early Retirement Vs. Disability: What’s The Difference?

The chances of winning a disability claim improve for people with older age. This is especially true for those over the age of 60. However, some seniors and retirees prefer to apply for early retirement at 62 or 63 instead of applying for disability. 

Although this may be the easier option, it may permanently reduce the compensation and benefits you are entitled to. The amount reduced from your benefit depends on the months you have until full retirement age (66 in 2016). This is called the "reduction factor."

On the other hand, if you are awarded Social Security disability benefits (SSDI), your benefit amount will be the same as what you would have received once you reached full retirement age. This is because SSDI and retirement benefits are calculated based on how much money you paid to the SSA in taxes. 

 Your benefits will convert to retirement benefits once you reach full retirement age, but your payment amount will not change. Even though you were able to collect Social Security early, your future retirement benefits are still the same.

You may want to consult with an experienced disability lawyer about the advantages and disadvantages of taking early retirement instead of applying for disability benefits.

Is It Easier To Receive Disability Benefits After Age 60?

Is It Easier To Receive Disability Benefits After Age 60?

To determine whether a senior worker is disabled, Social Security must consult a series of tables known as "grids” for claimants 60 and older. The grids determine whether a disability claimant should be approved or denied. It considers the claimant’s age, residual functional capacity (RFC), education, and work history.

Claimants over 60 are much more likely to be approved under the grids because Social Security recognizes that it may be more difficult for older workers to learn new skills and transition into new workplaces. However, if you worked in a skilled job before becoming disabled and could still utilize your skills in a less demanding job, you will not be approved for disability simply because of your old age.

Below is an in-depth discussion of various grid rules.

Residual Functional Capacity (RFC)

The most physical work, a claimant, can do on a regular and sustained basis is their residual functional capacity (RFC). An RFC can be for "light," "medium," or "heavy" work. 

Regardless of age, you will only be approved under the grids if you can do heavy work. However, if you are limited to sedentary or light work, are over 60, and do not have a high school diploma, you’ll be automatically tagged as disabled and receive SSDI benefits.


You will not be considered disabled if you are a high school graduate with recent schooling or training that would allow you to move directly into skilled positions, such as a desk job or management job.

However, if you did not complete high school, have no recent training and have a sedentary or light RFC, you will be considered disabled due to your old age.

Previous Work Experience

If you have a medium RFC and aren't a high school graduate, the chances of being considered disabled highly depend on your past work. Social Security will examine your previous work to determine whether you did unskilled, semi-skilled, or skilled work. Seniors and older adults who mainly did unskilled work in the past usually have an easier time getting approved under the grids.

Transferrable Skills

Social Security Administration (SSA) considers whether you have skills from your previous job that you could apply to another position. If you do, the SSA considers these abilities "transferable," You will not be considered disabled under the grids.

Typically, people who have worked in semi-skilled or skilled jobs have developed skills they can apply elsewhere. This can make it more difficult to obtain disability approval under the grids. However, some skilled and semi-skilled jobs require extremely specialized skills, and the SSA concludes the senior worker needs more transferable skills.

You should start your SSDI and VA disability claims immediately and apply for all the benefits you deserve. Also, remember the various social security disability rules after age 60 for a better chance of getting approved. 

If you plan to apply for SSDI benefits, read this article by Disability Help on the different medical conditions that qualify for Social Security Disability.

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Zoey Appleton
Zoey has worked with Cheri for years and has been creating the best articles not only for Disability Help but for our readers. Her job hits close to home for she has a brother with special needs. She hopes to see science and technology pave the way for a better life, with Disability Help to cover it and share it with those that need it.
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