Many people applying for Social Security disability are age 55 or older, and have worked hard for their entire adult life. But now, due to a medical condition, they cannot do their job any longer. Many of these workers are denied benefits when they apply for disability, despite a lifetime of paying into the Social Security system.
The Social Security Administration has special rules for claimants age 55 and over. If you can no longer do the sort of work you have done in the past, then Social Security must take your age into account when considering whether or not you can do other work. These rules are embodied in the Medical-Vocational Guidelines, which are used by the SSA to determine disability at step 5 of the sequential evaluation.
If you are 55 or older and are limited to unskilled light exertional work, Social Security will presume that you are unable to transition to other work due to your age. An experienced attorney can use these presumptions to help win your disability case.
It is very important to remember that you do not get the benefit of these rules until step 5 of the disability evaluation process. So it is critical to rule out your past relevant work at step 4.
Your past relevant work comprises all of the jobs that you have had during the past 15 years. If you still retain the residual functional capacity to perform any of these jobs, your disability claim will be denied at step 4. If Social Security determines that you can perform your past relevant work, your claim will never get to step 5, where you would have benefitted from the favorable presumptions due to your age. For this reason, it is particularly important for disability claimants 55 and older to have the assistance of a capable Social Security attorney.
I prefer to be involved as early as possible with a disability claim of a worker over age 55. Ideally, I am consulted before the claim is filed. In many cases, my help with the initial application pays off with a fully favorable decision, without the necessity of a hearing.
I ensure that I have a winning theory of the case before filing. Then, I help the client thoroughly complete the work history report, being sure to fully describe the requirements of past work. I analyze the past work for transferable skills, which can sink a disability claim. Then, I describe the claimant's functional limitations, and ensure that all sources of medical treatment are listed, so that Social Security gets a complete medical record. Lastly, I ask the client which of his or her doctors are most supportive, so that I can get a doctor's opinion.
For me, this process means front-loading the time spent on a disability claim. The hours of getting to know a client, the medical history and work history, are all spent before even applying for benefits. For the client, getting help with the disability application means that common mistakes are avoided, all the necessary details are included, and the application is supported by a winning theory of the case.
Your initial consultation is always free, and there are no legal fees unless you receive disability benefits.
If you are wondering if your medical condition is severe enough to receive disability benefits, and you live in Maine or New Hampshire, please ask for a free case evaluation. If you prefer, you can call me or send an email.