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Screening for Social Security Eligibility

Posted on:1/24/2013
For people with disabilities, two particularly significant screening areas involve eligibility for services from the public vocational rehabilitation program and eligibility for Social Security benefits.

Hurdles in front of the former program have been lowered significantly, whereas breaking into the latter system is still a major challenge for many applicants.

Historically, the public vocational program required evidence to prove that individuals had a disability that affected their ability to work and that they also had the potential to benefit from services before deeming them eligible. Formal testing was often used by counselors in order to arrive at a determination of eligibility.

A fabled (but true) story recounts the experiences of Ed Roberts, a man with quadriplegia from polio, who was refused services because he was thought to be unemployable. A few years later, he was appointed by the governor of California to head the agency that had denied him services.

The 1992 Amendments to the Rehabilitation Act mandated that services be provided to the most severely disabled applicants and that their potential to profit from services be assumed to be present. This directive shifted the burden of proof from documenting that the applicant was eligible to the reverse. In many cases, this shift eliminated the need for PSV testing. Vocational rehabilitation still is not an entitlement program, so individuals must qualify for services, but the process is less stringent than before.

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, on the other hand, involves a challenging application process with strict requirements. Many people are rejected upon first application, and many of them are rejected again upon appeal.


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