The Worn-Out Worker and Social Security Disability Claims

The “Worn-Out Worker” rule is a provision of Social Security Disability Law that applies to individuals who have only a marginal education and work experience of 35 years or more and did arduous physical labor.This rule can allow a claimant, who otherwise would not be found disabled, to be awarded benefits.

If you have only a marginal education and work experience of 35 years or more during which you did arduous, unskilled physical labor, and you are no longer able to do this kind of work because of a severe impairment(s), the Social Security Administration will consider you unable to do lighter work, and therefore disabled. However, if you are working or have worked despite your impairment(s), the Social Security Administration will review all the facts in your case, and may find you are not disabled.In addition, the Social Security Administration will consider you are not disabled if the evidence shows that you have training or past work experience which enables you to do substantial gainful activity in another occupation with your impairment.

By marginal education, the Social Security Administration means your ability in reasoning, arithmetic and language skills is quite limited. Schooling up until the 6th grade level is usually considered to be marginal. However, actual grade level may not be necessary in determining your actual educational abilities if there has been a long time between the completion of your schooling and when your impairments actually began. Therefore, a claimant could still be found disabled even if he or she have a higher or lower educational background under the worn-out-worker rule. A claimant may also may have attended school beyond the sixth grade, but other evidence may establish a capability for reasoning, arithmetic, and language which does not exceed the “marginal” criterion.

The Social Security Administration will then look at the claimant’s years of qualified work. The claimant must have 35 years of qualified work in order to be able to argue that the rule applies to them. It is not a requirement that these 35 years be continuous, there can be interruptions.The Social Security Administration will then look at the actual physical labor which the claimant has performed. Arduous work is primarily physical work requiring a high level of strength or endurance. While arduous work will usually entail physical demands that are classified as heavy, the work need not be described as heavy to be considered arduous. For example, work involving lighter objects may be arduous if it demands a great deal of stamina or activity such as repetitive bending and lifting at a very fast pace. Thus, there is room for judgment in deciding whether this criterion is met.

Work activity can qualify as “arduous” even though it is classified as medium or light work. Performance of semi-skilled or skilled work will not preclude a finding of disability if:

The individual’s skilled or semi-skilled work was isolated, brief, or remote and did not result in skills which enhance the person’s present ability to do lighter work; or

The skills obtained from past work are not “readily transferable” to any form of lighter work and make no “meaningful contribution” to the claimant’s ability to perform any other work within his or her residual functional capacity.

In other words, skilled or semi-skilled work will qualify if the skills obtained from such employment are not transferable to other work the claimant is capable of performing given his or her residual functional capacity.

As noted above, the Social Security Administration looks at a multitude of factors to determine if an individual meets the requirements for the worn out worker rule. If you believe that you may meet the requirements for the worn-out worker rule as highlighted above, and you reside in the Northern Kentucky, Southeast Indiana, or Greater Cincinnati area, call the law office of Michael Monce at (859)344-8090