The Job Market for People With Disabilities Is Booming
A tight labor market in general, more work-from-home options and other accommodations have led to a surge in hiring, and programs can help workers with disabilities find jobs.
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As we settle into the new year, the labor market is still in flux. Employers are more open to remote, hybrid and other work formats, and the economy is still grappling with the possibility of an impending recession. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) (opens in new tab) beneficiaries seeking to return to work can thus leverage this job market not only to find work — but to secure positions they want with solid potential career tracks. There really is no better time than now for Americans with disabilities to secure a good job.
Americans with disabilities are already returning to work in droves. More than 35% of the disability community ages 18-64 were employed in September — the highest rate (opens in new tab) since the U.S. began tracking this figure in 2007, and up from 31% right before the pandemic. By contrast, 78% of adults without disabilities were employed — about the same as the pre-pandemic figure.
This surge is largely due to a labor market that has remained tight for about two years and employers’ shifting perspective on work-from-home and hybrid environments and other accommodations that attract workers with disabilities to fill open positions.
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Although the circumstances are in their favor, the prospect of going to work after a period of absence can be confusing or even anxiety-inducing for workers with disabilities and SSDI beneficiaries. Many of these workers unnecessarily fear losing SSDI benefits or don’t know how to navigate the job search, application and interview process on their own. In addition, asking for employer accommodations, even if easily secured, may feel intimidating.
However, the reality is, there is no need to fear this reentry into the job market. In fact, there are plenty of robust support networks and resources for workers with disabilities who want to make the most of today’s job market. Fortunately, by taking a few simple steps, returning to work for SSDI beneficiaries and workers with disabilities can be a simple, exciting process.
Explore the World of Overlooked Programs and Benefits
More than 159 million American workers are insured for coverage under the federal SSDI benefits program. The primary benefit is receiving monthly income when continuing to work is no longer possible due to a severe disability. About 7.6 million former workers received SSDI benefits in December, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA) (opens in new tab), in the amount of $1,337 monthly on average.
However, this is not the only benefit afforded to SSDI beneficiaries. For instance, these individuals have the option to enroll in SSDI’s Ticket to Work (TTW) program (opens in new tab), which helps beneficiaries return to the workforce. TTW is designed to encourage individuals to work because they receive benefits protections, including expedited restarting of their SSDI payments if their medical condition worsens after they’ve been on the job again, as well as ongoing Medicare coverage for several years.
Many more Americans could take advantage of SSDI and TTW than have already, but there's a lack of information in the workforce about these vital protections. When approaching the job market for the first time in a while, simply looking into what programs and benefits are out there can be an encouraging and informative first step.
Seek and Ask for Accommodations
While the COVID-19 pandemic was undoubtedly an extremely trying time for employees, employers and all people, it forced companies to reconsider where and how they do business, and out of necessity, the workplace became a lot more flexible.
Even as the worst of the virus surges are behind us, remote work is not only here to stay but continues to increase in prevalence (opens in new tab). The most recent statistics (opens in new tab) show that 74% of U.S. companies are either “currently using or plan to implement a permanent hybrid work model.” With this movement, other flexible offerings like core working hours (opens in new tab), and even physical accommodations such as standing desks, are becoming commonplace. In essence, as work came home, companies had to think more actively about the steps necessary to make the work-from-home environment comfortable and productive.
These accommodations illustrate that there are plenty of jobs out there with flexible offerings across the board that make it easier for workers with disabilities to blend in if they prefer not to disclose their disabilities.
Work With an Employment Network (EN)
Even if your dream job is not at the forefront of the workplace flexibility movement, there are ways to ask for benefits and navigate the process so that you don’t have to limit your job prospects and can remain comfortable at work. Employment Networks (opens in new tab), such as Allsup Employment Services (AES) (opens in new tab), are invaluable resources that can help you ask for the accommodations you need and navigate the job process from start to finish.
ENs are certified by the SSA to provide precisely these services to SSDI beneficiaries. They provide career counseling and job placement services, advise on how to access benefits and TTW incentives and ensure you understand that your SSDI benefits are protected and that you are empowered to take steps to improve your financial future.
Even if you have done your own research and are seeking jobs that are naturally flexible and accommodating, working with an EN like AES can make all the difference in finding and securing the right job.
For Long-Term Success, You Need Good Resources — and Motivation
Given the currently favorable economic and labor market circumstances, there is no reason for SSDI beneficiaries to linger when making the move back to the workplace. Some experts anticipate this bullish job market will not last much longer (opens in new tab), and even as our workplace culture continues to grow to better support workers with disabilities, this group of workers has been marginalized historically. This means people with disabilities have every right to be skeptical of their job security.
However, this is precisely why supportive programs exist — and why many employers are proactively working to develop a more welcoming and inclusive job market than in the past. Ultimately, disabilities or not, people thrive in environments where they are supported by their leadership and given the tools they need for success.
Regardless of a person’s reason for taking time off work, the most important factors for resuming employment are motivation, personality and morale. With the right attitude and assistance from ENs and crucial benefits programs like TTW, Americans with disabilities can return to work this year with confidence.
This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC (opens in new tab) or with FINRA (opens in new tab).
Diane Winiarski has 30 years of experience in medical management, vocational rehabilitation and placement services through a variety of roles in managed care, disability and insurance organizations. She serves as Director of Allsup Employment Services (opens in new tab) (AES), a national SSA-authorized Employment Network (EN), and oversees AES experts providing specialized help to people with disabilities who are returning to work through the Social Security Administration’s Ticket to Work (TTW) program.
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