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Who is eligible for SS benefits under the “worn-out worker” rule?

On Behalf of | Jul 28, 2022 | Blog, Social Security Disability

Perhaps your spouse has worked all his life on a farm. However, he now has a disability that prevents him from performing his job as a laborer.

If he meets the requirements, he may qualify to receive Social Security benefits under the “worn-out worker” rule.

About the rule

The worn-out worker rule pertains to people whose disabilities prevent them from carrying out unskilled physical labor requiring strength and endurance such as your spouse performed as a farm worker. Those who meet the requirements may qualify for Social Security benefits even though they are ineligible to receive a standard award.


To qualify under the worn-out worker rule, applicants must meet three requirements:

  • A “marginal education,” meaning having no more than a 6th-grade education
  • A work record of 35 years or more performing arduous and unskilled labor
  • An impairment or disability that prevents them from doing the kind of work they performed previously

Work history

For worn-out worker Social Security benefits, an applicant must have a work history of at least 35 years duration. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), the term “arduous work” refers to physical work “requiring a high level of strength or endurance.” One example is a job requiring continual bending and lifting at a fast pace. “Unskilled labor” refers to a job that consists of simple duties “which require little or no judgment.”

Application assistance

Under a 1975 SSA policy decision, there is also a provision for people “of advanced age” without work experience to apply for benefits. Legal guidance will make it easier for you and your spouse to understand more about the worn-out worker rule and determine whether applying for benefits is the next step to take.

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