Social Security Disability Insurance is an important financial safety net for people who are unable to work due to physical or mental disability. Contrary to popular belief, many of those who are receiving these benefits do want to work. However, despite a nationwide downtrend in unemployment, finding jobs for those who are disabled is not as easy as it seems even for the Social Security Administration, who has created a program to do just that.
According to the Social Security Administration website, some 10,296,000 Americans received disability benefits in June 2018. The average benefit paid out was $1,063.25. For most of the beneficiaries, the road to receiving those benefits was a long one in which they could not work. While some people are approved in as little as 90 days, the great majority of people are initially denied and must go through the appeals process to eventually get approved.
“Navigating the Social Security Disability process is long and arduous, and most people end up seeking out an attorney to help them,” says Laurence B. Green, attorney and co-founder of Berger & Green, social security and disability lawyers in Pittsburgh, PA.
In 1999, Congress authorized a program called Ticket to Work, which was aimed at getting those receiving benefits back into the job market. However, in 2015, it was revealed that, of those who qualified for the program, less than 2.5% are utilizing the resource.
For many, the fear of getting back to work lies in what may be low-wage jobs that either offer no benefits or cannot compete with the Medicare benefits that beneficiaries receive after two years on the rolls. However, most beneficiaries are also unaware that they can continue to receive benefits for a time even if they do return to work.
SSDI beneficiaries have a “trial work period” which is meant for disabled beneficiaries to get back to work, which can be no easy task. No matter your earnings, you can continue to receive benefits for nine months. Afterward, beneficiaries may qualify for special status for another 36 months. As long as monthly earnings from employment do not exceed $1,040, benefits will continue. Beneficiaries are also able to continue receiving Medicare or Medicaid during this period.
In addition to these incentives, the Ticket to Work program offers those who are disabled other benefits, including:
- Free vocational rehabilitation
- Job referrals
- Other employment support
However, there are often other things barring people from returning to work. The long road to receiving benefits may last a few years, and for the most part, the disabled person seeking benefits cannot earn more than a nominal amount. This leads to gaps in employment on a resume that may raise potential employers’ eyebrows.
Another barrier is that beneficiaries spend months, sometimes years, in the effort to prove that they absolutely cannot work, only to then be encouraged back into the job market. Some believe that one way to encourage disabled people back to work is to help them before they complete the process and begin receiving benefits.
For those in the program, part of their identity lies in what they used to do for work. Getting them back to work should be a top priority for both the Administration and potential employers.