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Unemployment for People with Disabilities Drops - SSDI Applications Down

  • Synopsis: Published: 2015-01-29 - Social Security Disability Insurance applications declined and employment data for people with disabilities shows improvement - Allsup (

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Quote: "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."

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

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

  • People with disabilities who receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits may receive incentives to return to work if they are capable.
  • To qualify for SSDI, people with severe disabilities must meet 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.
  • Although most people who receive SSDI are not able to return to work, the SSA oversees work attempts that allow people to try to work while protecting their SSDI benefits for a period of time. The SSA also offers the Ticket to Work program that includes free job-related employment support through organizations like Employment Networks, or ENs.

Incentives include:

  • Attempting a trial work period. This is a nine-month period (not necessarily consecutive) allowing someone to work and still receive full SSDI benefits, regardless of amount earned.
  • Participating in the extended eligibility period. Following the trial work period, individuals have 36 months to continue working and receiving benefits in months when earnings are not "substantial," according to the SSA. For 2015, earnings are substantial if they are $1,090 or more, or $1,820 for people who are blind.
  • Continuation of Medicare Coverage. Medicare coverage can continue for up to 93 months after the trial work period.
  • Protection from medical continuing disability reviews (CDRs). Individuals are not subject to a medical review, which could result in termination of SSDI benefits, as long as they are participating in the Ticket to Work program and continue to see progress within the SSA's timeframes.

"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.

Related Information:

  1. Why Don't More Americans Insure Their Income - Council for Disability Awareness - (2014-12-10)
  2. ERISA Disability Lawyer Calls For Immediate Changes To an Unfair Law - Gregory Dell - (2014-04-03)
  3. Health Insurance for People with Disability or Uninsurable Health Condition - Max Snyder - (2012-11-28)

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