Many disability applicants understand that because Social Security takes into account age, education, and work history, it is easier for applicants over the age of 50 to obtain benefits.
Essentially, instead of proving a complete inability to work, if an individual over the age of 50 is limited to unskilled sedentary work and has not done this type of work in the past and lacks skills that would transfer to sit down work, he or she is found disabled.
One longstanding exception to those rules is that if an individual is illiterate or unable to communicate in English, then they can be found disabled at age 45 if they are limited to sedentary work instead of age 50.
This often comes up in cases involving naturalized citizens, permanent residents, or refugees.
Social Security is now considering a change to this policy though, claiming in a proposed rule that the “U.S. workforce has become more linguistically diverse and work opportunities have expanded for individuals who lack English proficiency.”
Reaction to the proposed rule has been divisive, with Republican members of Congress saying the current rules is outdated and does not consider the English language skills of many immigrants, and the jobs they may be able to perform.
Democrats have charged that changing the rule will only hurt older workers and is part of the Trump administration’s attacks on immigrants.
Social Security actually began reviewing the policy in 2015 after finding more than 200 cases where the language rule was used for people who only spoke Spanish. Both Spanish and English are the official government language of the territory.