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Disability Experiences: Writings and Perspectives

My Long Road Back to Employment

June 20, 2014

This is not an all-inclusive expose on my life or troubles with benefits. It is just to show how someone that is trying to go back to work, after being on benefits, can, and will, have a long and hard road back. I hope this article does not discourage anyone from trying to work, but encourages those around them to give support.

I started my job hunt after my disability had me in rough shape. I spent most of one summer in a supervised boarding house recovering from what had happened. Finally, I broke out of my slump with the help of medication, and I was moved to my own apartment. Once I was able, I joined with the Department of Workforce Development - Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) to help me find a job. Upon joining DVR and going through the evaluation process, I was found to be a prime candidate to work. I worked extremely hard at bringing my typing skills up to what would be acceptable for an office environment. At that time, I wanted only to work in an office environment, as I had already received a college degree in business administration. DVR believed my degree would help and then assigned me to an agency that would help me find a job.

Even with the help of the agency I could not immediately find work or get responses from employers, so I was assigned a manual labor job. They could not find me an office job because it was the start of the recession/depression. For 16 months, I worked very hard at the job thinking someday I would be given a chance to move into the front office. Finally my chance; the company I worked for had an opening in the office. I applied but was not offered the position. I fell into a depression and was eventually released from the job.

After recovering, I went back to DVR. By this time I had already taken one Paralegal course and my grade demonstrated to DVR that I was capable of finishing the courses with the required grades and results. DVR then paid for the rest of my Paralegal schooling. I had some short term Paralegal assignments that went well, but also had some poor performances. In the meantime, the DVR counselor with whom I had started the process retired and my new counselor only saw my poor performances, and I believe she also saw my personality as not being assertive enough for Paralegal work.

I was then expected to find another area of work. Even after all the work of Paralegal schooling I had gone through. I finally temporarily gave up my dreams and just tried for a job, any job, and landed a retail position. It did not go well. This leads to the predicament I find myself in today. I am on Social Security Disability. There is a system set up (which I do not fully understand) but must abide by, that allows and helps you work, but it only lasts for a predetermined amount of time. It allows for a nine-month Trial Work Period during which you can earn any amount and still keep your social security while seeing if the job will work out. A trial work month is considered used if you earn more than $770.00 in any given month. After the Trial Work Periodís nine months are used, there is an Extended Period of Eligibility that lasts for 36 months. During the Extended Period of Eligibility, if someone earns over $1070.00 per month, they are taken off of social security, but can be reinstated or put back on social security, if there income goes below $1070.00 in any given month within this period. Once this 36-month period passes there is nothing to work with to help you gain employment.

Because I have tried so many times unsuccessfully to work, I have since used up all of my Trial Work Months and Extended Period of Eligibility. I am left with nothing to fall back on if I am unable to maintain full time employment. If I were to lose my job, I would be without income and health insurance, which is essential for those of us with disabilities. It is a risk that almost makes me want to stop trying to find work. There is a program that is being tested nationwide on a randomly selected group of participants that allows someone with a disability to work part or full time. It enacts a set amount that the person can make without losing any of their benefits (This is set at $1070.00 at this time). It then takes away one dollar of Social Security for every two dollars of wages earned over the $1070.00 per month.

The benefit of having what I will call a two for one benefit, is that it allows people with disabilities to work, gives them incentive to work by eliminating the risk of losing all of their benefits, and puts less of a strain on society due to the person with the disability paying into Social Security.

I have made my mistakes; I certainly do not deny that. However, I feel as though the system has given up on me due to these past mistakes. Without any sort of safety net, the system has made it harder for me to find full time work, benefit society and help myself. No one wins when someone, who wants to work, is discouraged by the prospect of having no income.

Some would see the disabled person, who can work, and therefore leave the Social Security roles as the end goal. But if no one even tries to work, due to fear of losing their job and their benefits, then the system is broken and must be fixed.

I do believe the two for one benefit is a step in the right direction, if not the answer to some of my problems. It has to affect others in a positive manner. Even if it only helps some or only some take advantage of it, isnít it better to help some than to discourage many. I am not in the trial two for one benefit program. I can still work part-time and stay below $1070.00 per month in income, or I could work full time and risk losing all of my Social Security Disability.

The Disability fund of Social Security is projected to go bankrupt in just a few short years. Working and being a productive part of society is a great way to give the disabled more of a feeling of self-worth, while at the same time creating a more stable Social Security system, by having more people pay into the system. While paying into Social Security, the disabled would also be using less of the currently limited resources of the Social Security system.

But here I am, left with no alternative but to potentially permanently lose all of my Social Security Disability if I am unable to maintain full-time employment. It is a scary thought. Having a safety net, when you have a disability, helps in mentally preparing for each workday. It gives you peace of mind that if the disability would become severe enough to significantly limit your work ability, you would not have to go through a lengthy and rigorous process in order to receive Social Security Disability again. You would not be left penniless.

I strongly believe that many people with disabilities, and our society as a whole, would greatly benefit from the two for one benefit program. The wheels of government move slowly but as long as they move in the right direction all of society will benefit. People with disabilities should be given the chance to work and it is my hope that this program is extended to provide this chance.

As for me, I refuse to give up. I am currently back with DVR to start a new chapter in the saga. Wish me luck, as I am trying to get into the writing field and any help given will be appreciated.

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