Your Work

Work Strategies, Options & Links


Working and earning money can be one of the toughest areas for disabled individuals to negotiate. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides a variety of support options for employers and employees to request and receive “reasonable accommodation” to allow for continued employment.

But when full time work is really no longer possible, what then? Businesses, insurance companies and the government have very challenging systems and rules regarding what constitutes disability and what makes us unable to work. Are we able to perform the work we are trained to do? Can we do any work at all? Can we be re-trained?

At any stage of developing a disability it pays to get as much information as possible before choosing next steps. Meeting with a career counselor, speaking with your doctor or consulting an attorney can be among the best choices you can make for gathering the facts you’ll need. Continuing to work in your current job or career: Experts consistently recommend this option whenever possible. But doing this often requires making adjustments. Fortunately, ADA provides support to us as we ask for “reasonable accommodation” from our employers.

A reasonable accommodation is assistance or changes to a position or workplace that will enable an employee to do his or her job despite having a disability. Under the ADA, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities, unless doing so would pose an undue hardship. These accommodations can include changes to work hours, modifications to work stations and more. 

Filing for Disability: Sometimes working full-time or part-time with creative solutions alone isn’t enough, and that is where long term disability insurance policies and the government programs Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can take over.

But determining how to move forward with any of these can be daunting. Seek out whatever credible advice you can.

Most long term disability insurance plans are the ones offered to employees by their employers. If you have one of these private plans, this is probably the first place to start. Your physicians will need to be on board regarding your disability and how it affects your ability to work. If he / she / they agree, it comes time to work with your employer and the HR department to file for short-term disability. In most cases employers and their insurance providers require that individuals utilize short term disability insurance first, and when that’s exhausted, then move to long-term disability insurance. Most long-term disability insurers then require their beneficiaries to apply for Social Security Disability insurance. If you are approved for SSDI, this allows your insurance provider to pay you less. (They are typically responsible for providing you with income to a set level. If SSDI pays part of that amount, the private provider only has to pay the difference. You still get your preset amount, but part is paid by your insurance company and part is paid by the government.)

Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance are both federal programs that provide cash payments to people who meet the federal definition of “disabled”.

SSDI is an insurance program you pay into while working. With only a few exceptions workers pay into their Social Security fund (which includes regular Social Security for retirement, along with Medicare and Social Security Disability Insurance). If you worked for the government or as a teacher, it’s possible you contributed to this fund but you’d need to check with your employer and their policies.

This program is not a government hand-out – it is a self-funded insurance policy that you can apply for if you need it. Still, SSDI is not easy to obtain, which is why you will need to be able to show medical care history for your condition(s). Many recommend that you consider working with a disability advocacy group if you know your condition can be borderline for approval, or that it may be more difficult to prove disability.

As a federal program, attorneys specializing in Social Security Disability can work with clients anywhere in the US. We have experience with some that we can recommend.

After being approved for Disability

The money that we earn on disability is less than what we earned while working full time. So, many of us want to find ways to supplement our disability income. But working at all after being classified as disabled by Social Security is complicated. Social Security “Working While Disabled”

Friends have tried and recommended some of these alternatives:

  • Barter (This doesn’t directly create income. But it does make the income you have go further)
  • Earning stipends (Some charities have grants that allow them to pay their workers in this way)
  • Building your own business (This may give you some flexibility in how you write off expenses and take in remaining profits)
  • Volunteering (This doesn’t pay money, but can provide emotional rewards!)

As individuals with disabilities we may still have much to contribute. We wish you all the best in still satisfying your financial and emotional needs!