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Do disability benefits help or hurt chances of returning to work?

Suffering from a mental disability is not always as easy to define as physical disabilities and conditions. Unlike a physical limitation, mental conditions can be difficult to test for, diagnose and treat. But just like physical disabilities, mental disabilities can similarly prevent a person from working and earning a living. Therefore, people who are struggling with these conditions may be eligible to receive assistance in the form of Social Security Disability benefits.

In our last post, we discussed the fact that nearly 30 percent of people in Georgia who receive Social Security disability benefits do so because of a mental condition. It may be important for these people, and those who are looking to obtain benefits, to know about a recent study that links benefits to the rate at which people are able to return to work. 

The research focused on people who were receiving SSDI benefits for mental disabilities. In 1996, a number of people lost their benefits due to a change in program policy, and research indicates that about 20 percent of those who were affected were ultimately able to return to a position of gainful employment.

People who had received benefits for between two-and-a-half and three years were the most likely to return to work, as were the people who had gotten immediate approval for a qualifying mental condition. People who had been receiving benefits for longer than six years and those who had gone through an initial application denial and the appeals process were less likely to go back to work.

A number of factors could contribute to an individual's ability to return to work if they are suffering from certain mental conditions. For example, people who struggle with depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder may be able to get effective treatment that enables them to go back to work. But other conditions, including schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorders and learning disabilities, can be more difficult to diagnose and treat. 

But as this study would suggest, receiving disability benefits while you are unable to work does not necessarily decrease the chances that you will eventually be able to work. In fact, it suggests that those who are able to access benefits for a period of time may have a good chance of getting the help they need so that they are well enough to return to work.

Source: Life Health Pro, "Disability benefits may help some return to work," Allison Bell, Jan. 27, 2014

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