Working While Receiving State and Federal Disability Benefits
Disability insurance is available at both the state and federal levels to assist workers who become disabled; and unable to work. Learning the qualifications/disqualifications and self-advocating to ensure effective communications are occurring are two challenges many will experience. Another, often stressful challenge, is trying to work, or testing your abilities. This is especially true for professionals and others not in typical full time employment relationships.
The workplace and work processes have evolved since 1956 when the Social Security Act was signed into law by President Dwight Eisenhower. In addition, how we treat debilitating
conditions, view disability and disabled has evolved. Today, many individuals attempt to focus on their abilities; not their disabilities. I suspect many, like me, want to work. However, when we do, we risk losing all benefits.
If one can safely return to work and sustain their employment at their previous level, then it makes sense that they no longer are eligible for benefits. But, what if they can only safely perform some tasks and not others. Or, their treatment schedule is so disruptive, that qualifying for a “regular” position is no longer possible. For example, consider the person receiving Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) treatments over four days every three weeks who’s employment was terminated months prior to even receiving a diagnosis and treatment. This person can do some work over time, but the way the laws are currently written, if you perform any work for more than approximately eight months, then you may be deemed to no longer qualify for benefits.
The impact of a black or white regulation, with little grey area or individualized conditions, is a demotivator for those receiving disability benefits to even try or experiment with work they might possibly perform. Or, find even irregular employment. To do so, they risk losing all benefits.
So, why does this matter? One reason is the cost of depression to society and individuals. Research has shown that those with chronic conditions/illness and/or who are not actively engaged in some pursuit are at higher risk for depression. Depression can slow or even stall improvements in a person’s medical condition. We know so much more about engaged patients, depression and overall health, but I suspect this hasn’t worked its way into policy when it comes to disability benefits. But, it should.
There is another reason. That is the concept of use it or lose it. If I have a reason to type or walk, I’ll do it. If I have a reason to analyze and exercise my mind in other ways, I’ll do that too. Productive work is one way to help those with functional limitations and disabilities to exercise and improve their abilities. Instead of supporting individuals who need help to be lifted up to leverage their abilities; current policy and the way it is routinely applied, motivate individuals to give up on their professional passions or attempt to only be partially disabled. For many, this all by itself is depressing.
So, if the Social Security Administration is listening, I would love to see how we would change policy to allow some to be partially disabled. I truly believe it would save healthcare costs, and slow the bleed of funds from the disability program. I would even be willing to participate and help envision how this could work to benefit State/Federal disability programs, beneficiaries and taxpayers. As long as I could avoid the weeks of my IVIG treatment and have my fatigue accommodated, I’m ready to help. I still have a great deal to give and just wish I could find a channel to do so.
Originally published at https://thielst.typepad.com.