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Can I Receive Disability Benefits If I’m Over 65?


Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) exists to protect and offer assistance to those who have been injured or disabled and can’t provide for themselves through working a regular job. However, there are many caveats, hoops to jump through, and hurdles to overcome when beginning to apply for SSDI.

Fortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) makes the process a little easier for those over age 65. For people who aren’t able to work but aren’t ready to retire, the SSA will handle their cases a little differently.

Qualifying for Disability Benefits Over Age 65


There are many ways to qualify for Social Security benefits, no matter the age of the applicant. However, the process can be long (think years, not months) and full of deadlines, record-gathering, and appeals. To make it easier for aging workers, the SSA lowers a few thresholds and uses more in-depth policies.

Meeting the Listing of Impairments

As with any application for SSDI, people can receive benefits if they meet certain criteria on the SSA’s listing of impairments. The same is true for applicants over 65, but with a few extra steps to help evaluate their application.

First, all applications from those over 65 are reviewed by an administrative law judge (ALJ), who will comb through the applicant’s medical records for signs of age-related impairments that may contribute to the person’s benefits. This can help applicants get approved for benefits or increase their monthly allowance.

For example, a man aged 67 who applies for disability under a chronic respiratory disorder may also experience loss of hearing and vision that impairs his ability to work and only shows up in transcripts of conversations or a personal journal of lifestyle habits.

This is just one way applicants over 65 have a better chance at getting approved for disability benefits.

Medical-Vocational Allowances

In addition to the personal case review by an SSA official, older applicants also enjoy less strict rules for the type of work they are considered able to achieve. Known as residual functional capacity (RFC), this evaluation determines whether an applicant can perform certain types of jobs, and could therefore be considered ineligible for disability benefits through Social Security.

Applicants over the age of 60 are evaluated on the least strict guidelines possible, meaning they have the best chance of being rated “disabled” and eligible for benefits under the following criteria:

  • Those over 60 can be found disabled if their RFC determines eligibility for sedentary or light work and they:
    • Have not finished high school or lack recent education that allows them to transfer into skilled jobs, and
    • Lack easily transferrable skills that allow them to work a new job
  • Those over 60 can be found disabled if their RFC determines eligibility for medium work and they:
    • Have no prior work experience and
    • Did not finish eleventh grade or cannot communicate in English


    • Did not complete education beyond sixth grade and have no practical training, or are unable to communicate in English, and
    • Have either only unskilled experience, no practical skills from prior jobs, or no prior experience at all

These criteria can be confusing, as they become more specific as the applicant moves through the SSA. That’s why it can be helpful to work with an experienced Social Security disability attorney to help you or your loved one through the application process.

Automatic Acceptance Through Profiles

Finally, the SSA provides two easy ways for over-65-year-olds to earn disability benefits if their story closely matches one of two profiles:

  1. Applicants who lack any job experience
    • You must be over 55, have never completed eleventh grade or higher, lack significant job skill growth, and have not worked in the last 15 years.
  2. Applicants who performed unskilled physical labor
    • You must have worked an unskilled physical job for at least 35 years, completed less than 6th grade, and have no other significant job experience.

It’s important to note that, if you have little to no work history, you will likely only qualify for supplemental security income (SSI), not SSDI.

However, if you belong to either of these categories, the SSA should process your application quickly.

Prepare Your Strongest Application with a Little Help

Filing for Social Security disability benefits is a complicated process, even for those over the age of 65. It’s important to get your information right the first time since the process can take months or even years. To turn around and re-apply means precious time and resources are lost.

That’s why Hensley Legal Group takes care to ensure our applicants’ information is complete, accurate, and filed within deadlines so they can receive the benefits they need when they need them. Find out if our experienced attorneys can take the stress and burden off you and your loved ones by calling us or contacting us online and telling us your story. Your conversation with us is totally free, and there’s no obligation.