Social Security Disability Insurance, despite what some people might think, is not only for those nearing retirement. In fact, anyone over the age of 18 is able to apply for SSDI benefits. While age is not the single determining factor in a case, it does play a role in whether the Social Security Administration (SSA) ultimately approves an application.

Here’s a brief explanation of how age impacts an SSDI application.

The connection between age and the application

First, it’s important to understand how the SSDI process works. When you apply, the Social Security Administration weighs your application using a five-step process that looks at:

  • Whether you are currently working
  • The severity of your health condition, including whether it’s expected to interfere with your ability to work for at least one year
  • If your health condition is on a list of ailments the SSA considers disabling
  • Whether you can do the same work you were previously doing
  • The likelihood you’ll be able to do another type of work

Where does age fit into this five-step process? Mainly within that final point. In order to determine whether you’ll be able to adapt to another line of work, the SSA weighs your work history, education, special training and age.

According to the SSA, being 55 or older has a significant impact on your ability to find other work. The younger you are, the less severe that impact is expected to be.  For example, for people 50-54 years old, the SSA says age “may seriously affect” their chances of landing another job. People between the ages of 45 and 49, meanwhile will probably be somewhat limited in their ability to adjust to a new career, but likely more able than someone who is older.

If you’re under 45 years old, the SSA generally doesn’t consider your age as a deterrent in adapting to new work.

What this means for SSDI applications

If you’re under the age of 50 and need to apply for SSDI benefits, know that you absolutely can do so. However, because your age may not help your case in the eyes of the SSA, the rest of your application needs to be clear, thorough and convincing.

This means fully demonstrating the expected severity of your health condition, including how it will impact your future work prospects – regardless of how old you are. Whether applying for the first time or appealing a denial, it’s important to do everything possible to strengthen your case.