I read recently that a record 5.4 million workers and their dependents have signed up to collect federal disability checks since President Obama took office. Many unemployed apply for disability benefits as soon as their unemployment benefits run out. There are now a record 10.8 million Americans on disability — double the number since Obama took office. The EEOC has stated a clear agenda to protect the disabled, with an ever-expanding definition of what the term means. The commission is even suggesting that government contracts include hiring of a minimum of 7% disabled.
Politics aside, that’s a lot of disability going on. The ultimate proof of victimology comes from the government labeling people disabled. Uncle Sam classified an astonishing 54 million people as “disabled” in 2005. That’s 19% of the population, or nearly one in five Americans. The U.S. Census Bureau has classified Disabled Americans as the nation’s largest “minority population segment.” Given obesity and longevity trends, we can expect a growing number of disabled, placing considerable strain on the government and employers alike. The crazy thing is most of this “disability” is not due to accident or genetic pre-disposition, but primarily to individual’s lack of exercise, poor diet, and mental attitude.
Of course, the recent jump in disability filings is largely due to current unemployment and poverty levels. The Obama administration is also encouraging it. To see the Department of Labor’s overall approach to this issue, visit http://www.dol.gov/odep/
Employers need to bone up on ADA regulations, take advantage of the resources on HR That Works and from sites such as JAN (http://askjan.org/).
As a final note, I believe that we should help the truly disabled, especially those who can’t help themselves. On the other hand, people who make poor lifestyle choices and then claim disability as result garner little sympathy from me, as do those who “work the system,” taking precious dollars away from those in the disability community who deserve help. Unfortunately, I don’t see the administration making this distinction.