Compassionate Guidance For
Workers’ Compensation and Social Security Disability

What happens when a physical laborer suffers a job-ending injury?

Social Security -- Disability

Qualifying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits isn’t easy. Not only is do you need to work for long enough to qualify, but you also have to have a medical condition that meets very strict standards.

Most workers can only receive SSDI when they have an injury or illness so severe that they can’t work at all anymore. Not only must their condition prevent them from doing their current job, but it must be bad enough to prevent them from taking any other work.

If you can work as a cashier or a greeter at the grocery store, then you don’t qualify for SSDI benefits in most cases. However, there is an exception to that rule that helps those who have performed strenuous physical labor throughout their career.

Long-term manual labor changes the qualifications for SSDI

Manual laborers put their bodies through a lot of stress to earn their income. The longer someone works in manufacturing or as a bricklayer, the more damage and wear their work will cause their body. Everything from connective tissue to the heart can suffer damage due to physically-demanding work. The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes the toll that physical labor can take on a worker.

If you have done manual labor for at least 35 years when you develop a debilitating medical condition, you may qualify for benefits even if you could take a different job. Manual laborers unable to continue their current career can qualify for SSDI if they can prove they have done physical labor for 35 years or more.

Not everyone can easily change careers

Those who perform unskilled physical labor all day might struggle to find new work after a medical issue arises. The SSA provides the example of a miner’s helper with joint issues. Low levels of education and only physical labor work experience would limit what jobs this worker could take. Even if they find a job, the injuries from their career could cause chronic pain or work limitations.

That means that your decades of hard work won’t culminate in you working an embarrassing minimum-wage job at a local grocery store. Instead, you can claim and collect SSDI disability benefits until you reach retirement age and then receive Social Security retirement benefits.

Understanding the unique rules for SSDI benefits can help workers who need support get it.