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Report: Time To Toss Outdated Social Security Employment Rules
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 7, 2005

WASHINGTON, DC--Current Social Security Administration rules concerning employment of Americans with disabilities -- which were written during the Eisenhower administration -- present significant barriers today for those who want to work, the National Council on Disability concluded in a report released last week.

Under the existing rules adopted in 1956, those who apply for disability benefits must prove that their disabilities make them unable to engage in "substantial gainful activity". Those rules were written at a time when it was assumed that most who applied for such benefits would never return to work, let alone plan a career or purchase a home.

"The current eligibility criteria ignore the incredible advances in medicine and technology that enable many individuals with severe disabilities to lead independent and economically self-sufficient lives," explained the report, entitled "The Social Security Administration's Efforts to Promote Employment for People with Disabilities: New Solutions for Old Problems."

NCD performed the study because of the lack in recent years of a comprehensive, research-based look at practices designed to help those who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Disability Insurance (DI) benefits to find and keep jobs. The panel determined that advances since the 1950s in technology, laws, and expectations of people with disabilities require a new set of solutions to the problem of their unemployment and underemployment.

"Our nation's current disability benefit programs are based on a policy principle that assumes that the presence of a significant disability and lack of substantial earnings equate with a complete inability to work," wrote NCD chairman Lex Frieden.

While Congress and SSA have made it easier for people to keep their benefits while earning more money, less than one-half of one percent of those on SSI or DI seek work to become independent of government benefits -- in part because they do not know about the work incentives that are built into the system, the report concluded.

Press release: "NCD Calls for Immediate Changes to Get People with Disabilities Who Receive Federal Benefits Back to Work" (National Council on Disability)
Report: "The Social Security Administration's Efforts to Promote Employment for People with Disabilities New Solutions for Old Problems" (National Council on Disability)
"Agency says outdated rules keep disabled out of work force" (Associated Press via Chicago Defender)

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