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Unemployment for People with Disabilities Drops - SSDI Applications Down

Outline: Social Security Disability Insurance applications declined and employment data for people with disabilities shows improvement.

Main Digest

Unemployment for people with disabilities was significantly lower in 2014 compared to previous years, and applications for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits continued their downward progress - reaching the lowest quarterly level in six years, according to a study by Allsup, the nation's premier Social Security disability representation company.

The Allsup Disability Study: Income at Risk report illustrates through Social Security Administration data that, counter to perception, fewer people are seeking SSDI benefits. In addition, the economic opportunities appear to be improving for people with disabilities - though they still experienced an unemployment rate that is 53 percent higher than for people with no disabilities during the fourth quarter of 2014. The full report is available at www.allsup.com/media/files/allsup-study-income-at-risk-q4-14.pdf.

The quarterly unemployment rate was 11.1 percent for people with disabilities compared to 5.2 percent for workers without disabilities for the fourth quarter of 2014, according to non-seasonally adjusted data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

"Diversity hiring for people with disabilities really took the national stage in 2014 with a number of developments," said David Doeren, vice president, Allsup. "These activities included the Section 503 regulations that took effect in March 2014 and outlined goals for federal contractors with regard to hiring individuals with disabilities."

The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs issued rules enhancing employment opportunities for people with disabilities under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 in September 2013. Steps included establishing a national objective of 7 percent employment within federal contractors' work groups for people with disabilities.

More people with disabilities participating in the workforce carries benefits that include those individuals' contributions to the trust funds for the Social Security retirement and disability programs, Doeren added.

The fourth quarter of 2014 also ended with a significant decline in SSDI applications, continuing a trend that began in the fourth quarter of 2012 when SSDI applications dropped below 700,000.

"The trend in SSDI applications over the years can be connected to several factors, including the aging of the working population and fluctuations within the economy," said Steve Perrigo, vice president, Allsup. Baby boomers have aged into their peak disability years, or 50s, and now are aging into their retirement years, or 60s, he explained.

Perrigo, a former SSA field office manager, said forecasts about the growth and leveling off of SSDI program participation appear to be on track with U.S. demographics. "The youngest baby boomers reached 50 in 2014, and the average age of disability through the SSDI program is about 53. This helps to illustrate one element in the surge we saw about 10 years ago, and also accounts for the likelihood of fewer SSDI applications going forward."

Social Security Disability Insurance is a federally mandated insurance program that provides monthly benefits to individuals who are under full retirement age (65-67) and who can no longer work because of a severe, long-term or terminal disability. FICA payroll taxes paid by workers and their employers fund the program, which is administered by the SSA.

Understanding Employment Options when Receiving SSDI

Incentives include:

"There are some important protections for people with disabilities to participate in the Ticket to Work program, including the protection from CDRs," Perrigo explained. The SSA is required to conduct periodic CDRs to determine if existing beneficiaries should continue receiving benefits.

For more information about applying for SSDI benefits, contact the Allsup Disability Evaluation Center for a free evaluation.

Reach an Allsup specialist with questions about Social Security disability benefits by calling (800) 678-3276.

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