Young adults income no longer includes the parents’ income as they reach age 18.  Payments for young adults participating in vocational rehabilitation plans is also a factor reviewed.   A young adult who applies for disability benefits is “disabled” if he or she has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) that results in “an inability to do any substantial gainful activity.”  This is the same standard applied to adults and the SSA requires the child moving into the young adult category to undergo additional evaluation at age 18.

Young Adults and Documentation for SSD

When the SSA makes disability determinations or decisions for young adults, the same definition for disability is used as used for other adults. Adult rules are used to make disability determinations or decisions in several other situations which include as follows:

Disability Begins before 22:  When a young adult files a claim for child benefits on a parent’s record based on a disability that began before he or she attained age 22;

Disability Redetermination:  When a child who is receiving title XVI childhood disability benefits attains age 18 and must undergo a disability redetermination; and

Continuing Disability Review:  When a young adult receiving disability benefits under title II or XVI undergoes a continuing disability review (CDR) to determine whether he or she is still disabled.

The impairment(s) must be expected to result in death or must have lasted or be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months. 

The Five Step Sequential Process: 

These five steps are used to determine disability for ages 18 to 25.

1. Substantial Gainful Activity

Is the person engaging in SUBSTANTIAL GAINFUL ACTIVITY? If yes, the person is not disabled.  Substantial gainful activity is defined as engaging in employment that generates a specific dollar amount per month. This varies from year to year but in 2015, the amount is $1,090 for non-blind disabled applicants, and $1,820 for blind applicants.  The SSA does not include any income you obtain from non-work sources, such as interest, investments, or gifts.

2. Severe Physical or Mental Impairment

Does the person have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) that is severe? If not, the person is not disabled.

An impairment(s) is not severe if it does not significantly limit the person’s physical or mental ability to do basic work activities.   Documentation to support the impairment will be required.  This step includes obtaining the Residual Functional Capacity Form from various parties who are familiar with the young adult’s life such as teachers, supervisors, ministers, counselors, psychologists and healthcare providers.

This website includes many articles of RFC forms and their use in the SSD process.

3. Meets or Equals Listing of Impairments

Does the person have an impairment(s) that meets or medically equals a listing in the Listing of Impairments (listings)? If yes and the impairment(s) meets the duration requirement, the person is disabled.  Review the list of impairments.  Once the impairment is identified be certain the RFC form tracks each element of the stated impairment.

This website includes a discussion about the list of impairment.

4. RFC and Past Relevant Work

Does the person have the residual functional capacity (RFC) to do past relevant work? If yes, the person is not disabled.  RFC is documented with an RFC form typically by a healthcare provider.

5. RFC to Adjust to Other Work with Age, Education and Work Experience

Does the person have the residual functional capacity to adjust to other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy, considering his or her age, education, and previous work experience? If no, the person is disabled. If yes, the person is not disabled.

Each of the five factors must not only be met, but they must be documented and the evidence submitted to the SSA.  It is important to use the correct RFC form but remember not only healthcare providers can present findings, other persons with significant contact with the young adult may also submit findings through and RFC form.