One positive aspect of the internet is that we have instant access to vast quantities of useful statistics and information. For lots of us however, there are just too many statistics and not enough discussions of why numbers trend a certain way. It should trouble Americans deeply that according to government labor data, of the 29 million working-age Americans, who are over 16 years old, with a disability, only about 5.2 million are employed. Even those of us that are mathematically challenged can determine that is only about eighteen percent.
What is the deal with the other eighty-two percent? We all know there are people that cannot work at all. Some disabilities are so relentless that they take every ounce of physical, emotional and spiritual strength to deal with. Maybe the right thing to say is we should not judge our fellow human beings, but that is easier said than done when a person with a bad back claims a disability; is not working, and rides a Harley-Davidson up and down the road. Even if some disabilities are fraudulent, every person’s battle with disability is different. The other problem with judging is that there are many more invisible disabilities than those that can be seen with the naked eye. If someone says they are disabled, who are we to judge?
There are safety nets built in to the Social Security system, like the ticket to work, trial work period, and protection from medical reviews and expedited reinstatement for those who try to work and are unsuccessful. None of the programs are ideal, but they can be navigated. Even people that have not been approved for benefits fear how working will affect their pending case. Surprise, the reality is that attempting to work part-time can actually help your case.
Why are not more people looking for work? One reason may be getting a job is hard. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities actively looking is about 13.7 percent compared to about 7.9 percent for the general population. Is it fear of losing what benefits we have? Has the system designed to help us actually painted us into a corner? There is so much talent wasted. How can we reach out to people to help build them a better life? Does the system promote fear and discourage people? How much richer would society be if we could reach even a small part of the eighty two percent? Do you have any ideas?