Disabled unemployment rate rises in first quarter of 2012

Although today's job environment is difficult for everyone in the Pittsburgh area, legal and financial experts say the current economic conditions may be taking an undue toll on disabled individuals throughout the country.

A new report issued this week shows that disabled Americans experience a higher rate of unemployment, which has been significantly amplified thanks to the recent economic downturn. The study, which was performed by a provider of Social Security Disability, shows that those with disabilities experienced a 14.6 percent unemployment rate for the first quarter of 2012, as compared to just 8.4 percent for those without disabilities. That's a 74 percent difference.

The rates for both disabled and non-disabled individuals have increased since the last quarter of 2011, when only 13.2 percent of those with disabilities were unemployed. Similarly, only 8.1 percent of non-disabled Americans faced unemployment. Nearly 100,000 more people applied for Social Security Disability Insurance during the first quarter of 2012, with about 724,000 submitting the necessary paperwork. That's more than 4,000 more filings than the number submitted during the first quarter of 2011.

The report says that nearly 3 million Americans were unable to continue to work because of disabling injuries or illnesses. Nearly 2 million of those SSDI claims remain open and under consideration, with a wait time of about 800 days before beneficiaries start receiving compensation. That's a significant backlog, according to the report, which can cause even further health and financial problems for the people who need SSDI money.

Legal advisors encourage individuals who may be eligible for SSDI to acquire representation as soon as possible for a variety of reasons. An attorney may be able to help the individual learn more about their eligibility for the program, providing advice about whether to apply at all. Delays in processing SSDI benefits are often caused by incorrect application paperwork, according to legal experts. Professional representation can guarantee that the paperwork is filled out correctly the first time, speeding the receipt of SSDI benefits. Legal representation also increases the likelihood of an early award and it prevents people from having to wait in line at the Social Security office. Ultimately, hiring an experienced legal professional can help people earn more benefits and improve the likelihood of receiving the benefits in a timely fashion.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Unemployment among those with disabilities climbs to 14.6%" Kristen Samuelson, April 16, 2012

Source: The Wall Street Journal: Market Watch, "Income at risk: Unemployment rate for people with disabilities back on the rise, Allsup finds," April 16, 2012

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