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High Court's First Ruling Is Against Worker With Disabilities
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 13, 2003

WASHINGTON, DC--In its first decision of the new term, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the federal government does not have to pay disability benefits to people who are only able to do jobs that no longer exist.

The case involved Pauline Thomas who operated an old, manual elevator in a county building in Jersey City, New Jersey, until the elevator was replaced by an automatic model in 1995.

Thomas applied for Social Security Administration disability benefits claiming that her heart and back problems prevented her from doing any other job.

The federal government denied Thomas' benefits because she was able to do her previous job -- even though that job no longer existed. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later ruled in her favor, but the Supreme Court overturned the Appeals Court's decision.

In Wednesday's unanimous ruling, Justice Antonin Scalia noted that the SSA's guidelines allow the federal agency to penalize workers who find jobs in a declining industry if the job later disappears.

The SSA is obligated to determine whether or not the person is unable to do their previous job because of a disability, regardless of whether the job is obsolete.

"Court limits disability claims for workers in obsolete jobs" (San Francisco Chronicle)
Barnhart v. Thomas, 02-863 (U.S. Supreme Court) Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader


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