Law Office of Clifford Womack, Fort Worth Texas disability attorney The Worn Out Worker Rule and Disability Benefits

You’ve spent the majority of your adult life working by the sweat of your brow; whether working the land or on the factory floor, the labor you provide has been the only source of livelihood you have ever known. However, as you have advanced in age the years of cumulative wear and tear have finally taken their toll and you have become unable to recover full function and perform your job. In short, you’ve just become too worn out to continue working. But will the Social Security Administration see it that way?

Sometimes, under certain circumstances, the Social Security Administration agrees that you’re just too “worn out” to continue working until retirement age. This particular Social Security Disability rule is known as the “worn out worker rule” and applies to individuals meeting all of the following criteria:

  • You have a Marginal education. Generally, this is defined as the equivalent of 6th grade or less.

  • You have worked at least 35 years performing labor which is both unskilled and arduous. Work is considered unskilled when job duties are simple, can be learned in a short period of time, and require little or no use of judgment. Arduous work is work that is primarily physical in nature and requires high levels of strength or endurance. Repetitive bending and lifting at a very fast pace may constitute arduous work. This often, but does not always, conform to the Social Security definition of “heavy” work.

  • You have severe mental and/or physical impairments. This means the impairment must cause more than minimal limitation, and must interact with and functionally prevent the performance of work requirements in arduous labor.

While meeting these criteria is no guarantee that you will be automatically found disabled, you will certainly have fewer hurdles to clear in the process of obtaining benefits. Let me explain why: although many claimants are found to meet Step 4 criteria of the disability determination process – which states that the individual cannot return to prior relevant work due to his/her impairments – these cases frequently go on to fail at Step 5, when a determination will be made as to whether the claimant has transferable skills which would allow him/her to adjust to other, less mentally and/or physically demanding work. However, as a “worn out worker,” the Step 5 determination is rendered irrelevant as it is assumed that you have no transferable skills. Therefore, once you have proven that you cannot return to prior relevant work at Step 4, your case has effectively been won!

The trick, of course, is to develop evidence regarding 1) the nature and extent of your job skills and 2) what physical exertion level was required in the course and scope of your employment. The court employs Vocational Experts to make this determination using a reference manual which describes and categorizes every job according to duties, skills, and exertion levels. As a disability attorney, I am familiar with the criteria used and can help explain how your impairments are interfering significantly with key abilities needed to do your job effectively.

If you feel that this perfectly describes your situation, I would strongly encourage you to pursue a disability benefits claim; circumstances may be in your favor.

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