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Defining disability can be a complex calculation: Part I

Defining disability can be a complex calculation: Part I

| Jul 2, 2014 | Social Security Disability |

Social Security Disability Insurance has become a topic of considerable debate in recent years. This is, in part, because enrollment in the program has risen sharply. When combining Americans receiving Social Security Disability Insurance with those receiving Supplemental Security Income, about 14 million people receive financial assistance from the government each month.

What does it mean to be disabled or to have a disability? How can two people with the same health problems be classified differently? When is it possible to work despite having a disability and when is it not possible? These are questions that often get overlooked in the SSDI debate.

Last year, National Public Radio produced an in-depth report titled “Unfit For Work: The startling rise of disability in America.” In that piece, the author discusses two important, non-medical considerations when determining whether a worker is disabled: education and job skills.

Say, for instance, that two individuals develop chronic back pain that limits their ability to stand for long periods and prohibits them from lifting heavy objects. One is a computer programmer and one has been working industrial jobs most of his life. The computer programmer can probably continue to do his job because he can sit most of the time. But an individual without a college degree or specialized job skills is unlikely to find a job that allows him to work sitting down.

“Disability” is not always cut-and-dried. Determining whether or not someone is disabled enough to qualify for SSDI involves considerations broader than just their physical and mental health.

Please check back later this week as we continue our discussion.

Source: National Public Radio, “Unfit For Work: The startling rise of disability in America,” Chana Joffe-Walt, March 22, 2013