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Report Proposes that Employers Retain Disabled Workers

In the two decades between 1989 and 2009, the percentage of working-age adults receiving Social Security Disability (SSD) in the United States has more than doubled to just under five percent. Concurrently, the cost of SSD programs has skyrocketed, tripling from 1989's $40 billion to 2009's $121 billion. These increases have culminated in a precarious existence for the program, with increasingly longer wait times for applicants and uncertainty about whether the government will be able to support the program financially for much longer.

In an effort to remedy the ever-worsening situation, a new report by the Brookings Institution's Hamilton Project and the partisan Center for American Progress has proposed a sort of stop-gap solution. The report suggests that the federal government create incentives for employers who keep disabled workers on the payroll in an effort to avoid or postpone filing for SSD.

The employer and employee would be required to take out a private disability insurance policy, and it is anticipated that they would share the approximately $200 annual cost of such a package. If the employee ultimately decides to file an SSD application, he would first be required to file for benefits from the private policy taken out by the employer, which benefits would cover rehabilitation and other related services as well as partial income support. After receiving these private benefits for two years, employees would have the option of applying for SSD if they are unable to work due to ongoing disabilities.

According to the report, the effect of the proposed program would be to encourage employers to make a greater effort to help disabled employees continue to work. Report authors say that the increasing use of computers and other technology in the workplace has made jobs physically easier, and because of this, disability and employability are no longer "mutually exclusive states".

Source: The Washington Post, "Report: Retain disabled workers for fiscal health", Michael A. Fletcher, 27 November 2010

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