Worn-Out Worker Rule for Social Security DisabilityThe Social Security Administration (SSA) does allow for an interesting exception to its overall disability rules. The administration recognizes that some workers who have done unskilled physical labor for a large part of their life may be entitled to benefits when they normally would not be.

Workers qualify for the worn-out worker exception if:

  • They have a marginal education. Social Security looks at a worker’s math, language, and reasoning skills. Generally, a worker who has completed no more education than the sixth grade qualifies for this exception.
  • They have a long history of hard work. The applicant must have worked 35 years or more doing unskilled physical labor that is hard on the body. Examples include mining and farm work.
  • They have a physical or mental impairment (or both) that prevents them from working for at least one year at their prior job. The worker also qualifies if he/she is expected to die soon.

How does the evaluation of the worn-out worker rule work?

Many workers don’t need the worn-out rules to win their exception. Social Security examines if the applicant has a disability that is on the Social Security Disability list of impairments. If the worker does not have physical or mental impairment that’s on the approved list, the SSA then looks at the Workers’ residual functional capacity to see if the grid can be used to qualify the worker. The SSDI grid reviews the Workers’ education, job skills, experience, and age. Many older applicants with little education who have done physical labor most of their lives often qualify under the grid rule test.

The grid rules look at your age, education, and work experience. They begin to apply at age 50. If you are over the age of 50 and your past work was at the light level or above, and you are now limited to sedentary work, you will be found disabled as long as you do not have transferable skills to a sedentary job. If you are over the age of 55 and your past work was at the medium level or above, and you are now limited to light or sedentary work you will be found disabled if you do not have transferable skills.

The worn-out worker rule comes into play for workers who have 35 years of arduous work experience but may be limited to light or medium work and due to their age do not qualify under a grid rule (especially if they are under 55). A worker who would be disqualified because they could do light duty work won’t be disqualified through the worn-out worker rule. The worn-out worker rule looks at the work the applicant previously did – NOT what he/she might be able to do.

Our Maryland Social Security Disability lawyers understand how hard it can be for some workers to be retrained for new work. This is especially true if they are older and have little education. At Plaxen & Adler, Pa, we fight to help workers get all the benefits they deserve. We have extensive experience to help claimants get the best results. We work with physicians and vocational experts. We welcome the opportunity to speak to you about your Social Security Disability claim. Please call 410.730.7737  or contact us.