NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Disability Rules Discourage Self-Reliance

January 18, 2002

Social Security disability rules prohibit beneficiaries from earning more than $500 a month without losing their benefits. Critics contend this policy penalizes those who try to re-enter the workforce -- while putting those who already qualify as disabled under no obligation ever to try to return to work.

  • Social Security allows beneficiaries who want to return to work to collect a salary for a year before they lose their disability checks.
  • But the checks disappear entirely if earnings exceed an annual salary that averages out to less than minimum wage.
  • While Social Security provides vocational rehabilitation to those who might be retrained to be productive again, rehab is not mandatory and no one with a certified disability can be forced to try something new.
  • Because of those and other policies, less than 1 percent of disability recipients rejoin the workforce each year.

Source: Editorial, "Self-Sufficiency Punished," USA Today, January 17, 2002.


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