A little-known wrinkle in President Obama’s most recent budget proposal could have a significant impact on millions of disabled workers. The proposed change would prohibit individuals who receive disability benefits from also receiving unemployment benefits. Supporters of the proposal say it would save nearly $3.2 billion over 10 years.
Opponents of the change say it unfairly discriminates against disabled workers. Court lawyer Howard Ankin is among those who oppose the change. He says that Social Security disability benefits and unemployment benefits are two separate systems and shouldn’t be lumped together. He says, “Many disabled people do work. Their Social Security disability benefits are meant to supplement their earned income. If they lose their job through no fault of their own, should they not receive unemployment like every other working adult?”
Under current law, recipients of Social Security disability benefits can earn up to $1,070 per month every year. The allowance for earned income is designed to give disabled individuals the opportunity to ease into the labor market and test their capabilities.
Disability advocates say that the proposal is likely targeted towards those who are trying to game the system. However, they also point out that few would get rich by collecting both Social Security disability and unemployment benefits. The average monthly disability payment in 2013 was $1,130. The average unemployment benefit was $1,200.
Chicago lawyer Howard Ankin says he would prefer to see new legislation targeted at the projected funding deficit in the Social Security disability program. The program’s trust fund is projected to be empty by 2016. In the past, lawmakers have taken money from the Social Security retirement program to fund any shortfalls. However, that’s only a stopgap measure and likely can’t continue into the future.
Mr. Ankin says that he knows firsthand how important Social Security disability benefits are for disabled people. He says that many of his clients have a strong desire to work, but are limited by their disability. In periods between jobs, Social Security and unemployment are critical to maintaining their financial solvency.
However, Howard supports the idea that veterans will get the process for their social security benefits expedited. Currently, Veterans have to wait anywhere between three months to a year to get their social security benefits once they have been declared fully disabled. He also supports the new efforts being made to increase employment opportunities for those who are disabled. You can read all about those efforts here.