An Honest, Clear Voice In SSI/SSDI Care

Understanding the ‘Worn Out Worker’ rule

On Behalf of | Jan 20, 2023 | Social Security Disability

Many Oklahomans who had few educational opportunities growing up earn a living in physically demanding jobs like coal mining. Such jobs can provide for a family but take a physical toll. Years of heavy labor can leave you with painful disabilities that severely limit your ability to work anymore.

Disabled workers with sufficient work history have Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD) available to help make up for their lost income. But to qualify, you must show the Social Security Administration that you are disabled under that agency’s definition. This can be a complicated challenge, especially if SSA determines you can still earn an income from lighter work. However, workers who have spent decades in the most physically difficult jobs available might have an easier route to SSD benefits, thanks to the “Worn Out Worker” rule.

According to this rule, SSA will consider you disabled if:

  • You have spent at least 35 years performing “arduous unskilled physical labor.”
  • You have a “marginal” education, which SSA defines as having no more than a 6th-grade formal education.
  • You are not currently working and cannot return to work because of a physical impairment.

In addition, SSA will not require you to prove you cannot handle lighter work. In other words, SSA will consider you too “worn out” from working so hard for so long to force you to keep working.

For people who have performed low-wage, back-breaking labor to make ends meet for most or all of their adult lives, SSD can be a lifesaver. That is also true for people from all walks of life who are too hurt or sick to keep working.