Income at Risk: On ADA Anniversary, High Unemployment Continues for People with Disabilities, Reports Allsup

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High Rate Shows Continuing Challenges 20 Years After ADA; Allsup Explains Return-to-Work Opportunities for SSDI Beneficiaries

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It’s important for people who want to try to return to work to understand their options, their rights under the ADA, as well as how employment may affect their Social Security disability benefits.

During the second quarter of 2010, unemployment rates for people with disabilities continued to outpace the unemployment rate for other workers, according to a quarterly study by Allsup, a nationwide provider of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) representation and Medicare plan selection services.

The Allsup Disability Study: Income at Risk shows that for the second quarter of 2010, people with disabilities experienced an unemployment rate 59 percent higher than people with no disabilities. Specifically, the unemployment rate for the second quarter averaged 14.8 percent for people with disabilities, compared to 9.3 percent for people with no disabilities, according to non-seasonally adjusted data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The Allsup Disability Study: Income at Risk also shows that during the second quarter of 2010, the number of people with disabilities unable to work and applying for SSDI climbed to 747,839, an increase of 5 percent over the first quarter of 2010. More than 1.7 million SSDI claims are pending with an average cumulative wait time of more than 850 days, based on Allsup’s analysis of the Social Security disability backlog.

“The challenging economic environment continues for people with disabilities, who consistently face higher unemployment rates,” said Paul Gada, personal financial planning director for the Allsup Disability Life Planning Center. “Some are unable to ever return to work, while others may be reluctant to try. They may be fearful they’ll be discriminated against because of their disability or lose their disability benefits, including healthcare coverage.”

Over the years, several steps have been taken to support those people whose conditions have improved to transition back to work, while still providing certain disability benefits as a safety net. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also has helped ensure that people with disabilities capable of working are not discriminated against in the workplace.

“It’s important for people who want to try to return to work to understand their options, their rights under the ADA, as well as how employment may affect their Social Security disability benefits,” Gada said.

Understanding Employment Rights under ADA:

Enacted in 1990, the ADA seeks to improve several facets of life for people with disabilities, including participation in civic life, community involvement and access to employment.

The ADA made it against the law for employers to discriminate against a qualified job applicant or employee with a disability in an adverse way. This law now applies to all employers with 15 or more employees. To be protected under the ADA, a person’s disability needs to be so substantial that it limits or restricts a major life activity, such as walking or seeing. A 2008 amendment to the ADA broadens employees’ protections across more areas of major life activities, such as reading and communicating.

Under the ADA, a person still must meet the general qualifications of the job, including having the necessary education and experience. They also must be able to perform the essential functions of the job -- with or without reasonable accommodations. Reasonable accommodations may include job restructuring, modified work schedules or providing equipment or devices to help the employee with a disability perform the job.

Individuals who believe they are being discriminated against in the workplace because of a disability can file charges with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

“Unless an employer can prove that the accommodations would be significantly difficult or expensive, they are required under the ADA to furnish and pay for the accommodations,” Gada said. “As a result of the ADA, more barriers have been removed for people with disabilities thus allowing them greater opportunity to work and contribute to the American economy.”

Understanding Employment Options when Receiving SSDI:

People with disabilities who receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits also are provided with incentives to return to work if they are able.

In order to qualify for SSDI, people with severe disabilities need to meet very strict requirements including the inability to do the work they did previously and/or inability to work at other occupations. Also, their disability must have lasted or be expected to last at least one year, or result in death. While most people who receive SSDI are not able to return to work, the Social Security Administration offers incentives to support individuals who are interested in returning to the work force.

Under Social Security rules, a person can work while still maintaining SSDI benefits by:

  • Earning a minimum amount. If you earn less than $720 a month (in 2010), your employment won’t affect your benefits.
  • Undertaking a trial work period. During the trial work period, you are allowed to work for at least nine months and still receive full SSDI benefits. The trial work period includes the nine months over a consecutive 60-month period in which you earn at least $720 per month (in 2010) or you are self-employed and spend more than 80 hours per month in your own business.
  • Participating in the extended eligibility period. After the trial work period, you have 36 months during which you can work and still receive benefits during the months your earnings are not “substantial.” For 2010, earnings are substantial if they are $1,000 or more (or $1,640 for people who are blind).

Even after someone’s benefits stop because they have substantial earnings, they still have five years in which they can have their benefits reinstated -- if they must stop working because of their disability. This five-year grace period does not require an additional SSDI application. Also, their Medicare Part A continues at least 93 months after the nine-month trial work period.

The Social Security Administration also offers the Ticket to Work program, which provides people with disabilities free job-related employment support including vocational rehabilitation, training and job referrals.

“For those people whose conditions improve over time or who have a period of remission, it’s reassuring that they can try to return to work without risking their disability benefits,” Gada said.

Allsup’s online Resource Center provides links to the ADA, EEOC and Ticket to Work as well as other important resources for people with disabilities.

Individuals who are uncertain of their eligibility for SSDI benefits can contact the Allsup Disability Evaluation Center at (800) 279-4357 for a free evaluation.

Allsup is a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, Medicare and Medicare Secondary Payer compliance services for individuals, employers and insurance carriers. Founded in 1984, Allsup employs nearly 700 professionals who deliver specialized services supporting people with disabilities and seniors so they may lead lives that are as financially secure and as healthy as possible. The company is based in Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis. For more information, visit .

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: Details on the Allsup Disability Study: Income at Risk are available at .

Mary Jung
(773) 429-0940

Rebecca Ray
(800) 854-1418 ext. 5065


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