The Social Security Administration has special rules for people who have had several years of physical unskilled labor. The worn-out worker rule enables a special window for disability claimants who would otherwise be denied SSDI due to not meeting the SSA's condition for disability.
Rules to meet Worn-Out Worker Rules
The worn out worker rule is established under the Code of Federal Regulations (20 C.F.R. § § 404.1562, 416.962). According to this rule, the federal law has stated special conditions to be met in order for worn-out workers to get approved for SSDI.
- I.Meet the criteria for marginal education: This rule requires that worn-out claimants have a low level skill in academic areas such as reasoning, arithmetic and language. As a general rule of thumb, a claimant who has completed less than or equal to 6th grade is classified under marginal education.
- II.Have performed arduous/strenuous unskilled work for atleast 35 years: This may include irregular, underpaid jobs such as mine workers, farm laborers, and others whose job duties were solely of a physical nature, and
- III.Be unable to take up previous jobs: This may be due to a severe physical or mental condition (or a combination of both impairments). This rule also requires that claimants meeting the criteria prove that their disability is to last another 12 months (or 1 full year).
How Does Worn-Out Worker Rule Works
The SSA would evaluate your disability claims through an adjudicator (i.e., the administrative law judge, ALJ) to evaluate whether or not the worn-out worker rules apply to you. The SSA would evaluate your medical conditions, underlying symptoms and whether you could take up work under substantial gainful activity. If you do not meet the SSA's Blue Book listing of impairments, then your application may be evaluated for the residual functional capacity (RFC). If the disability claimant isn't considered 'disabled enough' under these conditions, then they may qualify for worn out worker rule.
However, many a times when disability examiner or vocational expert is analyzing your SSDI claims with your administrative law judge, they find out that the claimant meets the disability listing under either the Blue Book of SSA or the Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). In which case, the ALJ (adjudicator) would not consider a claimant to be eligible for the worn out worker rule.
No Need for Inability to Do Lighter Work
In order to be approved for disability after an RFC assessment, you must prove that you are unable to take up any kind of sedentary, semi-skilled or skilled jobs or any type of work on a consistent basis. But, if the disability examiner and vocational expert determine that even if a person can't return to old jobs but could take up lighter jobs according to their work history, experience, education, age and symptoms, then they are not considered eligible for RFC. Fortunately, this rule doesn't apply to worn out worker rule which only requires a claimant to meet the requirements (I) & (II) mentioned above.
Seek Professional Help to Avoid Denial of Worn-Out Worker Rule
Although it seems simple enough, the worn-out worker rule isn't always applied when appropriate. Even if the rule is considered, there may be human error or miscalculations involved in the evaluation processes. For instance, a worn out worker doing heavy jobs on and off for 35 years may be considered as not fit for RFC with their file buried deep in other rejected claimants without the ALJ realizing that the claimant could be meeting condition I or II for worn out workers.
Whether or not you think you qualify for SSDI based on worn out workers, hiring a qualified professional disability attorney may help determine the right course of action for you to win SSDI benefits.