New Details for SSA Determinations of Young Adult Disability

A recent ruling from the Social Security Administration (SSA) clarifies the types of information that can be used to determine whether young adult applicants have a physical or mental disability. The SSA's policy interpretation ruling is now in effect for the processes that govern Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) applications.

The ruling applies specifically to people who are "young adults" for SSA purposes, meaning those from 18 to 25 years of age. Under current SSA procedures, the same definition of disability applies for both young adults and older adults who seek SSDI benefits. Adult disability definitions are also applied in situations where a young adult files for benefits based on a parent's financial record or a disabled child reaches adulthood and faces a disability redetermination.

The ruling better defines the types of evidence that can be used to document a young adult's impairments, and also details relevant factors in evaluating an individual's limitations, assessing his or her disability insured status, and resolving inconsistencies in evidence.

Evidence regarding a young adult's ability to work includes medical sources to establish a determinable impairment, as well as additional input from chiropractors, occupational therapists, nurse-practitioners, audiologists, physical therapists and other health care professionals to establish the severity of the condition or its effect on vocational abilities. However, the rule also recognizes the value of non-medical opinions from family members, educators, social workers and clergy, as well as records from Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and other school programs.

Evaluating the extent of a particular young adult's impairment-related limitations can be based on a range of sources, including:

  • School program records that show how well a person uses physical or mental abilities to accomplish work-related tasks
  • Experiences within the community, such as job placements, vocational training or community-based instruction
  • Participation in psychosocial support programs
  • A person's requirements for extra help, medications or special accommodations
  • The ability to handle work-related stress

A Social Security disability lawyer can help potential applicants understand the full implications of this recent ruling, and discuss a person's likely eligibility for benefits based on the range of complex factors that govern the SSA's disability determination process. An SSDI attorney can also explain how this legal development may affect the outcome of an appeal of a denied claim.