We know people with disabilities are struggling in the current economy
Belleville, Ill. (Vocus) February 17, 2009
Whether forced out of work by layoffs or severe health problems, people with disabilities are among the hardest hit during tough economic times, according to Allsup, a leading provider of Social Security disability, financial and healthcare-related services to people with disabilities.
A new Allsup study shows that Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims have generally increased during the seven recession periods over the past four decades. The 40-year analysis includes the current recession, which began in December 2007, according to National Bureau of Economic Research data. During 2008, the number of disabled workers applying for SSDI benefits reached a record high of more than 2.3 million, according to data from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Disability applications overall have reached 2.6 million. Separately, the government announced that the number of long-term unemployed (out of work for 27 weeks or more) also rose to 2.6 million during 2008.
"We know people with disabilities are struggling in the current economy," said Edward Swierczek, an Allsup senior claimant representative and former state Disability Determination Services employee. "Many people have been laid off. They're being hit with mortgage and credit problems, resulting in foreclosures and bankruptcies. They also may not be taking care of their health. We've seen evidence of many people holding off on treatment for serious conditions because of finances."
As the economy contracts, people who have struggled with a disability are forced to look for alternatives they might not have otherwise considered, including SSDI, which is why applications are increasing. Another factor in the increasing number of SSDI applications is the aging of the U.S. population, with the resulting increase in chronic conditions that may prevent people from working. There also is a recessionary connection to the segment of the population that some call "working wounded."
"These individuals have been working and want to hold on to their job as long as they can, but they are suffering from a chronic disease or condition," said Swierczek. "In some cases, they are enduring significant pain or difficulty, but continue to work because they still have to feed their families and pay their bills."
When these workers lose their jobs in an economic downturn, their condition may worsen during the time they are looking for a new position, or their disabilities may stand in the way of getting hired by another employer. For example, many disabilities, such as diabetes, heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), can progressively worsen to the point where working is no longer possible. When this happens, people should consider applying for SSDI.
On the other hand, some individuals who apply for SSDI are not going to be able to qualify because they do not meet the technical or medical criteria. So it's important that individuals considering filing for SSDI benefits understand the requirements outlined by the Social Security Administration regarding their eligibility.
Deciding to Apply for SSDI Benefits
One of the earliest challenges for people with severe disabilities is accepting that they truly are disabled and unable to work. Eligibility for SSDI is based on the inability to work, as determined by the SSA. Generally, a person is considered disabled by the SSA if:
- They cannot do the work they did previously;
- They cannot do other work because of their disability; and
- Their disability has lasted or is expected to last at least one year, or result in death.
To qualify for SSDI, a person also must have worked and paid into the program (via FICA payroll taxes) for five of the last 10 years and be under retirement age.
The SSA denies most SSDI applicants at the initial level and it can take two to four years to finally be awarded benefits. Swierczek emphasizes it is important that people who are truly unable to work because of a disability apply for benefits and remain in the process.
Securing Their Financial Future
Many people are aware of the Social Security retirement program, but may not have heard of the disability program, Swierczek noted. Without a job and facing the possibility of never returning to full-time work, people should consider SSDI's financial and healthcare benefits. They include:
- Regular monthly income;
- Medical and prescription drug benefits, including Medicare and Medicare Advantage;
- Extension of COBRA health coverage;
- Private long-term disability benefits;
- Protected retirement benefits;
- Dependent benefits; and
- Return-to-work incentives.
"Applying for SSDI can be complex and time consuming, so seek help from an organization that specializes in SSDI benefits if you feel overwhelmed," said Swierczek. "But, by all means apply for SSDI benefits if you have a long-term or permanent disability. If you have paid into the system, you have a right to receive benefits if you qualify. "
Allsup, Belleville, Ill., is a leading nationwide provider of financial and healthcare related services to people with disabilities. Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2009, Allsup has helped more than 110,000 people receive their entitled Social Security Disability Insurance and Medicare benefits. Allsup employs more than 550 professionals who deliver services directly to consumers and their families, or through their employers and long-term disability insurance carriers.
For more information, visit http://www.Allsup.com.
The information provided is not intended as a substitute for legal or other professional services. Legal or other expert assistance should be sought before making any decision that may affect your situation.
Editor's Note: Detailed analysis on the Allsup findings is available at http://www.allsup.com/portals/4/Chart_Recession-SSDI_2-5-09.pdf.
(800) 854-1418 ext 5760