It depends. Normally a person seeking Social Security disability benefits must prove that he is unable to perform any full-time work. (It is not enough for applicant to show that he or she is unable to perform his past work.) However, at step five of the Sequential Evaluation Process, the rules are relaxed somewhat for certain applicants who are 50 years old and older, relaxed even more for certain applicants who are 55 and older, and relaxed even more for certain applicants who are 60 and older. According to SSA’s Medical-Vocational Guidelines (the “Grid” Rules), a 50-year-old may be found “disabled” in some circumstances even if he or she can still perform sedentary work, a 55-year-old may be found “disabled” in some circumstances even if he or she can still perform light work, and a 60-year old may be found disabled in some circumstances even if he or she can still perform medium work.
However, in order to take advantage of these step five “grid” rules, it must be shown that the applicant: (1) cannot perform his past relevant work, if any; and (2) has acquired no skills during his past work that would readily transfer to lighter work.
The “grid” rules are complicated. If you are 50 or older, we would encourage you to call us, as we would be happy to review your work history and let you know if these special rules apply to you.