Trending now – more jobs available for job seekers. This is good news for the 12.8 million Americans currently out of work. But for the long-term unemployed who suffer poor health, the news may not make much of a difference.
Competing for Jobs
Even though the latest jobs report from the Department of Labor is encouraging – 227,000 jobs were created in February –there’s a flipside. Competition to get one is tough. For every job, there are four people – from recent college grads to baby boomers – competing to land one. And, according to CBS Money Watch, the “number of job openings remains below the level when the recession began in December 2007.” It will take another four years to recoup what was lost in jobs during the peak of the Great Recession.
Included in the mix of those competing for jobs are people with disabilities. Their additional challenge is to not only find appropriate jobs within their physical capabilities, but to also find employers willing to hire them.
The unemployment rate for people with disabilities was 12.9 percent in January, compared with an unemployment rate of 8.7 percent for people without disabilities. The Labor Department is pushing to improve these statistics. They have developed a proposal to get companies to hire more people with disabilities.
Disability rights activists support the proposal, which could shake up laws, they say, that haven’t worked well enough over the years in getting more people with disabilities back into the workforce. They say that advances in technology make it possible for people with disabilities, such as chronic health conditions or physical limitations, to work.
The Social Security Disability Safety Net
In the meantime, there still aren’t enough jobs for everyone. What is a laid off worker with poor health to do if they’re collecting unemployment, have the desire to work, but can’t find a job they can handle due to their condition?
The federal government can help through its Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) program. This safety net program administered through the Social Security Administration (SSA) is for workers who have a long-enough work history and have paid into Social Security through payroll taxes.
Since the economy dipped in 2007, massive layoffs occurred and disability applications have soared, causing backlogs of cases waiting decisions.
Apply for Disability Benefits Now or After the Money is Gone
Even so, disability benefits are only awarded to those who qualify for them. The question is, should the application process for Social Security Disability start before unemployment benefits dry up?
It seems contradictory to do so. To be eligible for unemployment benefits, a laid off worker must be willing and able to work. To be on disability, a worker must have a severe medical condition that is preventing them from working at any job.
Still, people with disabilities are facing closed doors to ever working again. Many have applied for Social Security disability while collecting unemployment, and have won average monthly payments of $1,000 as well as access to health care. At least, in these hard times, it’s something.