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A tough job market is more difficult for the disabled

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are required to make accommodations for disabled workers. However, according to civil rights and Social Security Disability (SSD) attorneys, that does not always happen, especially in a tough job market when hundreds of qualified applicants are submitting applications for a single open position. As unemployed and disabled workers burn through savings and face dwindling options for making ends meet, there has been an exponential increase in SSD applications and appeals in California and throughout the country.

For the most part, employers are not specifically targeting disabled workers, which would be a clear violation of the ADA, but are instead firing disabled employees during mass company-wide layoffs. In those cases, it is difficult to prove that the motivation for the layoff was anything but economic. However, for a person with a disability, finding a new job often proves difficult, if not impossible.

Approximately 3 million Americans filed for SSD benefits in 2010, which represents an over 25 percent increase in applications since 2008. Undoubtedly, the economic recession has a great deal to do with this, says disability attorney Eric Shore. "Most would rather be working if they could find a job they could do with their disabilities," he said. "It's demeaning for people who were once working to apply for food stamps or go on disability."

Last year, only 35 percent of those 3 million applications were approved on the first try, according to Social Security Administration records. Less than half of those who received denials went through the reconsideration process, when 13 percent of that group received approvals. And of those who took their application through to the final appeal hearing, 62 percent were ultimately approved for SSD benefits.

Source: Courier-Post, "With dwindling options, jobless turn to disability", Eileen Smith, 6 February 2011

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