Over 30 million Americans have been laid-off because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The job losses have hit the disabled and nearly community particularly hard, as is typical during an economic downturn. During recessions, individuals with disabilities are the first to be fired and the last to be rehired. If you have a disability or serious medical condition and have lost your job during the coronavirus pandemic, here’s what you need to know about seeking Social Security Disability Benefits.
Even in the best of times, unemployment among disabled individuals is always higher than the non-disabled population. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for disabled people in 2019 was 7.3 percent compared to 3.5 percent overall.
But recessions have a disproportionate impact on the disabled. During the “Great Recession” of 2007-2009, the proportion of individuals with disabilities in the workforce fell by 9 percent, and in 2010, the community faced an unemployment rate of 14.8 percent, compared to a rate of 9.4 for the overall population.
Workers with disabilities also had a more difficult time finding a job as the economy improved. It took nearly 10 years for the community to achieve pre-recession employment rates. In difficult economic times, many employers are less willing to invest in special equipment that could possibly be necessary to accommodate workers with disabilities. In addition, as many people with disabilities are older Americans, employers might be less likely to hire them because of their age.
Given their struggle to keep or find a job during a recession, many workers with disabilities turn to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) to make up for their lack of income. During the 2009 recession, applications in 2009 alone jumped by 21 percent. We are almost certain to see a similar increase among workers laid off because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some people wonder how individuals with disabilities or serious medical conditions would be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits after a layoff since they were working before the crisis.
In many cases, individuals who apply for disability benefits during a recession are low-income workers with limited job skills that have ignored their serious physical issues and pushed through their pain to work because they need the paycheck. Often their physical condition worsens after losing their job because they no longer have access to health care or can’t afford treatment. Or, they can be higher-income workers whose medical condition has worsened. All workers get older during a recession and that can make them even less employable.
When these workers are laid off during the pandemic, they will have difficulty getting rehired as their age, physical and mental conditions, and job skills prevent them from performing the jobs available. Many will make a claim for SSD because they have no other options.
A laid-off worker with a serious medical condition could possibly seek SSD benefits, but it’s rarely easy to obtain, especially without legal assistance. The most problematic aspect for most workers is a lack of medical documentation of their condition. The Social Security Administration (SSA) requires you to offer substantial proof that your medical condition meets the official SSA definition of a significant impairment and that your condition prevents you from working. Without these documents, it will almost certainly deny your application.
A primary care physician will usually have most of these documents and will be able to speak to how your condition affects your ability to work. But for workers who lacked health insurance or access to medical care, gathering such evidence can be challenging. A knowledgeable Social Security Disability Lawyer could perhaps be able to help you gather the medical documents needed to establish this part of your claim.
You may also have trouble obtaining disability benefits if you do not show that you have a strong history of full-time work. The SSA will examine your work history to determine whether you’re a hard worker, the breadth of your job skills, and the extent to which your medical condition prevents you from working jobs for which you might potentially be qualified. The more thorough your work history, the more evidence the SSA has that you are willing to work and the better their understanding of your skills.
Although adults of any age may apply for and receive social security disability benefits, the people who have the best chance of obtaining benefits after a layoff will most likely be older workers. The SSA tends to approve more applicants over 50 years old for benefits more often than those under 50.
This higher approval rating is because the SSA believes it is more challenging for older people to get hired, be employed, transition into a new job or career, or learn new job skills. The administration also acknowledges that older individuals are more likely to have medical conditions that worsen with age. It’s feasible that many older people could continue to work, despite near-debilitating pain, because they want to earn as much as possible before retiring.
If you’re under 50 years old, you may still be able to obtain disability benefits, but it’ll be even more important to offer strong proof that you were working even with a serious medical impairment at the time of the layoff.
If you’ve been laid-off due to COVID-19 and are considering seeking SSD benefits, here are 3 things you should to do improve your chances that the SSA will accept your claim.
You will need detailed medical records to succeed on your claim, but collecting these documents may prove challenging. Even if you haven’t fully decided whether to apply, start assembling the necessary documents today. By so doing, you can determine what evidence is missing and how you will go about obtaining the proof you need.
You will need statements from doctors about your medical condition, but it can help to get statements from former employers, social workers, or family members about your condition and how it has affected your ability to work. Former employer statements can be especially useful, particularly if they can describe any accommodations they needed to make for you on account of your condition.
Having a skilled lawyer to handle your SSD claim is critical to increasing your chance of success, particularly if you were working until the COVID-19 layoff. A lawyer experienced in social security law will understand its many nuances and know the best evidence and specific language that will strengthen your claim. If you haven’t already hired a knowledgeable lawyer to help you prepare an application for benefits, you should do so as soon as possible.
Many people with serious physical and mental conditions (who were working before the pandemic and laid off) first apply for unemployment compensation benefits. But, when the unemployment benefits run out may people will then apply for Social Security Disability benefits.
Typically, you have to certify that you are capable of working and looking for work when receiving unemployment compensation. When you apply for SSD benefits, you have to certify that you are not capable of working to the level of substantial gainful activity.
You don't want to represent to Workers Compensation that you can work while you are representing to the Social Security Administration that you can't work.
Let an experienced Social Security Disability Lawyer at Underwood Law Office help you with your case. We have handled many decades of SSD benefits cases.
Our McKinney Attorneys serve all of DFW, including Allen, Frisco, Plano, McKinney, Collin County, and the entire State of Texas. In West Virginia, our Huntington, West Virginia Attorney Office represents clients across the entire state. For both offices, call our toll-free number 844.UNDERWOOD (844.863.3796) for a free consultation.