Elder Law: Age Discrimination, Social Security, Medicaid

This comprehensive guide to elder law covers age discrimination, Social Security, and Medicaid, providing detailed legal context, resources, and essential information to help older adults navigate these critical issues.


Elder law encompasses a wide range of legal issues that affect older adults. This guide focuses on three critical areas: age discrimination, Social Security, and Medicaid. Each section provides detailed information, legal context, and resources to help understand these complex topics.

Age Discrimination

Age discrimination involves treating an applicant or employee less favorably because of their age. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967 protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age.

Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)

The ADEA prohibits age discrimination in hiring, promotions, wages, and termination of employment and layoffs. It also outlaws statements or specifications in job notices or advertisements of age preference and limitations. The ADEA applies to employers with 20 or more employees, including state and local governments, employment agencies, and labor organizations.

Age Discrimination Act of 1975

The Age Discrimination Act of 1975 prohibits discrimination on the basis of age in programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance. This act covers a broader range of activities beyond employment, including education, health care, and social services.

Age Discrimination in Healthcare

Age discrimination in healthcare can manifest in various ways, such as denying older adults access to certain medical treatments or services. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) addresses age discrimination in healthcare settings.

Enforcement and Remedies

Victims of age discrimination can file a complaint with the EEOC. Remedies may include reinstatement, back pay, and compensation for damages. In some cases, punitive damages may also be awarded.

Social Security

Social Security is a federal program that provides retirement, disability, and survivor benefits to eligible individuals. It is a critical source of income for many older adults.

Social Security Act

The Social Security Act was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935. It established a system of old-age benefits for workers, benefits for victims of industrial accidents, unemployment insurance, aid for dependent mothers and children, the blind, and the physically handicapped.

Retirement Benefits


To qualify for Social Security retirement benefits, individuals must have earned enough credits through their work history. Generally, 40 credits (equivalent to 10 years of work) are required. The amount of the benefit is based on the individual's average indexed monthly earnings during their 35 highest-earning years.

Full Retirement Age

The full retirement age (FRA) varies depending on the year of birth. For those born in 1960 or later, the FRA is 67. Individuals can choose to start receiving benefits as early as age 62, but the benefits will be reduced.

Disability Benefits

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provides benefits to individuals who are unable to work due to a severe disability that is expected to last at least one year or result in death. To qualify, individuals must have worked long enough and recently enough under Social Security.

Survivor Benefits

Survivor benefits are paid to the family members of a deceased worker who earned enough Social Security credits. Eligible family members include widows, widowers, children, and dependent parents.


Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that provides health coverage to eligible low-income individuals, including older adults. It covers a wide range of health services, including long-term care.

Medicaid Eligibility

Eligibility for Medicaid varies by state, but generally includes low-income individuals, pregnant women, children, elderly adults, and people with disabilities. States have the option to expand Medicaid coverage to more individuals under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Medicaid for Older Adults

Long-Term Care

Medicaid is the largest payer for long-term care services in the United States. It covers services such as nursing home care, home health care, and personal care services. Eligibility for long-term care services typically requires both financial and functional assessments.

Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS)

Many states offer Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) waivers that allow Medicaid beneficiaries to receive care in their homes or communities rather than in institutional settings. These services can include personal care, adult day care, and respite care.

Medicaid Expansion

Under the ACA, states have the option to expand Medicaid coverage to individuals with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level. As of 2023, 38 states and the District of Columbia have adopted Medicaid expansion.

Program Integrity and Fraud Prevention

Medicaid program integrity efforts aim to prevent and detect fraud, waste, and abuse. These efforts include provider screening, audits, and investigations.


Elder law is a complex and multifaceted area of law that addresses the unique needs and challenges faced by older adults. Understanding age discrimination, Social Security, and Medicaid is essential for protecting the rights and well-being of older individuals. This guide provides a comprehensive overview of these critical topics, along with resources and links to official government websites for further information.

By staying informed and aware of the legal protections and benefits available, older adults and their families can better navigate the legal landscape and access the support they need.

Additional Resources

About the author
Von Wooding

Von Wooding

Helpful legal information and resources

Counsel Stack Learn

Free and helpful legal information

Counsel Stack Learn

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to Counsel Stack Learn.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.