Numbers of Unemployed and Disabled On the Rise

I guess it should come as no real surprise, considering today’s economy and aging workforce, that the numbers of unemployed and disabled Americans is rising. According to this recent study by Allsup, a Social Security disability provider, unemployment for people with disabilities continued to significantly outpace the unemployment rate for other workers throughout 2010.

In fact, the study shows the number of people applying for SSDI benefits reached a record 2.9 million applicants in 2010, the highest on record since the SSDI program began. It appears the number of people who leave the workforce due to a disability and then come to realize they can’t return is climbing.

This recent piece we ran on our magazine’s website, by the managing editor of our sister magazine, Risk & Insurance®, confirms this trend through 2009 figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

All of which can and should serve as a reminder to all employers to make sure their disability hiring and return-to-work practices are as proactive as they can be and are making full use of all the resources at their disposal. For instance, this story came across my radar screen about the good work going on in Oklahoma, where that state’s department of rehabilitation services just got a hefty $2.3 million in reimbursement from the Social Security Administration for helping a total of 2,292 clients start new jobs in the 2010 fiscal year. They may not all be as aggressive as Oklahoma’s, but state and federal agencies everywhere are biting at the bit to help employers find good hires from the ranks of the disabled and unemployed. There are tons of resources, including, of course, the Americans with Disabilities Act home page.

Do your due diligence, of course. Know the rules of the ADA and the Family and Medial Leave Act as they apply to returning to work after a disability. Companies continually seem to be getting into trouble around this, the latest on my radar screen being a $3.2 million settlement between the Equal Employment Opportuity Commission and supermarket giant Supervalu.

Bottom line, though, companies can and should be doing more, within legal guidelines, to help put disabled Americans to work. As disability consultant Milt Wright told R&I‘s Managing Editor Cyril Tuohy, they’re “the most overeducated and underemployed people in the country.”

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