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What Is Social Security’s Worn-Out Worker Rule?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) receives millions of applications for disability benefits each year. Although each person’s story involves hardship and struggle, the SSA simply cannot approve everyone for benefits. However, it has developed several policies specifically to take care of the most vulnerable or severe cases. Compassionate Allowances are a great example of one such procedure.

Another is called the Work-Out Worker rule. As with compassionate allowances, the criteria are rigid and necessarily exclude all but a specific set of disabled workers. Those who do qualify may get approved for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) much more quickly than those who don’t.

Who’s Considered a Worn-Out Worker?

There are three simple criteria for being considered a worn-out worker under Social Security disability: applicants must have marginal or no formal education, have worked exclusively in hard labor, and have suffered a disability that prevents them from continuing to work.

Specifically, the SSA needs to see the following information in a normal SSDI application to consider someone a worn-out worker:

  • The applicant has not completed education above grade 6.
  • The applicant has worked in unskilled, manual labor for at least 35 years.
  • The applicant has suffered an injury or illness that makes it impossible to continue their previous job.

These qualifications are identified through the normal SSDI application process, so applicants don’t need to do anything special to note their status. If they qualify for worn-out worker status, the administration will discover it through the evaluation process and approve the application automatically.

Ability to Perform Light-Duty Work

In most cases, heavy-duty workers who have been disabled but are still found to be capable of performing lighter duties may not qualify for disability benefits. This is because the SSA figures those people can find sustainable employment performing less demanding tasks, like sitting in an office, rather than hauling hay bales.

Worn-out workers avoid this rule, however. No matter their residual functional capacity, applicants who qualify under worn-out worker criteria can still receive SSDI.

Benefits Available to Worn-Out Workers

Those who qualify as worn-out workers may have their application for SSDI automatically approved. Employees in the SSA determine first whether the applicant qualifies under normal circumstances. If the applicant doesn’t qualify for SSDI, the adjudicator will consider the worn-out worker or other last-resort rules that may qualify them despite their specific medical condition.

This means that worn-out workers are often approved quickly for SSDI, whether through normal channels (their application clearly identifies them as disabled) or as a condition of this obscure rule. Besides this, the benefits for these specific types of disability applicants aren’t any different from all other approved applicants’.

However, as anyone who’s waited through the SSA’s lengthy application process knows, quick approval is a huge advantage. This means you won’t have to go through a stressful appeal and hearing process.

Protect Your Application with Legal Assistance

Though the SSA has many internal quality controls in place, people will occasionally make mistakes. The worn-out worker rule applies so infrequently that some evaluators simply miss it. When this happens, applicants who file on their own can benefit from the legal aid of a qualified Social Security disability attorney.

One way to protect yourself against misfiling or others from misevaluating your SSDI application is by hiring an experienced Indiana disability attorney to help prepare and file your claim. Hensley Legal Group has been serving Hoosiers in need since 1998, and our staff is ready to hear your case. You can get started today by calling us or contacting us online. The first conversation is free, and we won’t be paid until you are.