The Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains a somewhat unforgiving standard for disability. Someone seeking Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits typically needs to show that they have a condition so severe that they can no longer work any job.
Many people can have truly debilitating conditions while still being capable of performing a basic job like working a cash register or serving as a greeter at the local store. The SSA expects that anyone who can work will, and they will decline the applications of those able to do unskilled work even if a severe medical condition ends someone’s long-held profession.
However, the SSA does offer special consideration to those who have long performed arduous physical labor. The worn-out worker rule helps manual laborers qualify for SSDI benefits even if they could do a job other than their current one.
How does the worn-out worker rule help manual workers?
To qualify under the worn-out worker rule, an SSDI applicant must have spent years performing intense physical labor. Typically, they need to have worked in their profession for at least 35 years, and their job will be one that demands unskilled physical work.
They need to now have a severe medical condition that prevents them from continuing the same job. Finally, they must have no more than a marginal education and no transferable job skills. Someone who can read and write but whose math skills do not exceed that of a sixth-grader would qualify under the worn-out worker rule.
Why this rule is so important
If you have already spent more than three decades performing exhausting manual work every day, you should not have to continue doing poorly-paid work after your diagnosis with a severe medical condition. Your long-term history of manual labor means that your body has likely suffered more than a white-collar worker of the same age, so the SSA may not demand that you accept light-duty work instead of your prior job.
Realizing that you can qualify for benefits can help you preserve your health and financial stability. The SSA may approve SSDI benefit requests from manual laborers without the education or work experience to perform well-compensated work. Learning more about SSDI benefits can help you determine if you could potentially qualify.