The assistance of an experienced disability attorney can help all applicants navigate the often lengthy and complicated process of applying for disability benefits. In past blogs I’ve extensively mentioned the grid rules, which are used to establish disability. In addition to the grid rules, an obscure rule, the “worn out worker” rule may be used to approve disability benefits for individuals with little education whose primary work was physical labor. The rule allows eligibility for disability claimants who would otherwise have their disability claim denied.

The “worn out worker” rule is established under the Code of Federal Regulations, specifically, 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1562, 416.962. The rule permits the approval of benefits if the following criteria are met:

  • The claimant has a marginal education which is considered to be a 6th-grade education or less. The claimant must have a low skill level in academic areas such as reasoning, arithmetic, and language.
  • The claimant has worked at least 35 years doing only “arduous unskilled physical labor,” which is work that primarily involves strength and endurance, and requires little or no training to perform. These jobs typically involve jobs solely of a physical nature such as landscaping, farming or mining;
  • The claimant is unable to perform any of his or her prior jobs because of impairments which must be expected to last at least one year or result in death.

Before the worn out worker rule is applied to a disability case, the applicant’s disability status is first evaluated using the five-step evaluation process. If a disability claimant isn’t found disabled under these any of the steps, then the worn out worker rule is considered.

Many applicants who may otherwise benefit from the worn out worker rule are often approved because they meet the requirements for disability under a medical listing or residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment. In this case, the rule is not considered. Also, using the worn out worker rule may result in a finding of “disabled” for applicants who would otherwise be considered able to perform lighter work, and thus have their claim denied.

Unfortunately, the worn out worker rule is rarely used successfully as few disability applicants qualify under it. Also, since it is so obscure, not every party involved in the case may realize its potential applicability. Even when considered, errors may be made when determining eligibility under the rule related to whether or not an applicant’s education was marginal or whether an applicant’s work was arduous and unskilled.  This poorly educated construction labor, working for three decades…  I have not seen such a case in over ten years!

Whether or not you qualify for benefits under the worn out worker rule and existing Social Security rules and regulations may be a complex question. Hiring a qualified disability lawyer ensures the proper evaluation of your disability matter. To improve your chances of meeting all of the requirements for the allowance of a claim (and avoiding the denial of benefits), retain the services of a qualified Kentucky Social Security Disability attorney. Contact Sullivan Law Office today. We offer free consultations, so you have absolutely nothing to lose! We look forward to hearing from you. Call 888-587-0228 or visit us online.Unskilled Workers And Disability Benefits: The “Worn Out Worker” Rule