Many Individuals Continue Working Despite Disabilities

As the age of eligibility for full retirement benefits increases, many people with disabilities continue to work, despite their disabling conditions. In February 2015, disabled workers comprised 19.8% of the U.S. Labor force. (Source: Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy) Many disabled workers do everything they can to keep their jobs even in the face of serious injuries or illnesses. In our office, we have many clients who have continued to work, sometimes with unofficial “modifications” from understanding employers and coworkers, even after experiencing significant impairments from the first stages of multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease or cancer. Other clients continued working as long as possible in spite of struggles with heart disease, back surgeries and kidney failure. Giving up a job, especially when faced with severe medical conditions and significant expenses, can mean not only losing income, but losing invaluable health care benefits. Applying for disability benefits is, in many instances, an emotionally wrenching decision because it means the end of career that often defines who we are as people and where we fit in society, based on the job we have. The decision to seek disability benefits is for most people a decision of last resort. We should respect, not punish or demean, individuals who are applying for disability benefits or appealing a denial of benefits after staying in the workforce as long as possible despite their disabling conditions. These individuals deserve respect and dignity for their efforts and contributions to society. And for some disabled workers, there will be a return to work in their future.

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