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Stop the Wait Act

What is Past Relevant Work For Disability? What Happens if I am Over 50 and Trying to Get Disability?


When someone is over 50 years of age, they will have an easier time being found disabled than younger claimants. This is especially true if you are over 50 and have physical health problems.

Essentially, you do not have to show that there are no jobs that you can perform to be considered disabled after age 50. Instead, between 50 and 54, you can be considered disabled if you cannot do your past relevant work and otherwise are only able to do a sedentary job (sitting most of the day and not lifting over 10 lbs.). If you are 55 and up, you can be considered disabled if you cannot do your past relevant work and otherwise are only able to do a light job (standing up to 6 hours a day and lifting up to 20 lbs.).

The big change that is coming to Social Security in early June 2024 is the definition of “past relevant work.” Up until this point, past relevant work was any job that you did gainfully within the last 15 years. Starting in June the look back period is going to be significantly shortened to just five years. This means that for those over age 50, you no longer have to be concerned with proving that you are unable to do all the jobs you did in the last 15 years. Instead, you will only be taxed with showing that you cannot do the jobs you have done within the last 5 years. This means that there is now less to prove in order to get disability if you are over 50 years old. Having less to prove is always a good thing and will result in more people over age 50 being awarded disability. The following is an example of the old rule versus the new rule.

Claimant- John Jones is 53 years old. From 2010 to 2018 he worked in telemarketing. From 2019 to 2024, he worked as a cashier at a grocery store. John’s disability is back pain that prevents him from being able to stand for long periods of time. Under the old rule, John would have to prove that he cannot be a telemarketer or a cashier. It will be difficult for John to prove he cannot be a telemarketer because his back mostly bothers him when standing. If he cannot prove that he is unable to be a telemarketer, he would lose his case under the old rule. Now, since the look back period is only 5 years, John need only prove that he cannot be a cashier. Since there is ample evidence that John cannot stand long, he is likely to win his case because he cannot be a cashier and cannot do other jobs that require him to be on his feet the majority of the day.

Not only will this regulation change lead to more favorable decisions for those over 50 years of age, but it will also cut down on some of the paperwork and processing time involved with disability claims. Essentially, with Social Security having less to look into, they will be able to process cases more efficiently.

If you are considering applying for Social Security disability or SSI, please give us a call or complete our Social Security disability checklist to see if you have a claim. We would be happy to assist you. We offer free consultations and are only paid if you win.

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