Chicago residents who live with disabling conditions often face challenges when trying to work. If these individuals do not receive reasonable accommodations in the workplace, they may be able to make claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act. People pursuing ADA claims may also be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits.
ADA claims and SSD claims rely on the fulfillment of different criteria. SSD benefits are available to people who cannot work gainfully due to disabling conditions. ADA claims contend claimants can perform essential job duties, with or without reasonable accommodations. In many cases, people who quality for SSD benefits cannot meet the requirements for an ADA claim. However, disabled individuals are not prohibited from making an ADA claim and receiving SSD benefits.
Situations without contradictions
The U.S. Supreme Court considered this issue in a case decided in 1999. After suffering a stroke, an employee sought and secured SSD benefits. The employee also filed an ADA claim. Two lower courts held that the employee’s application and eligibility for SSD benefits created a presumption of the employee’s inability to perform necessary job duties.
The Supreme Court ruled that the terms of the two claims are not contradictory enough to justify this presumption. A person could legitimately make both ADA and SSD claims under various circumstances, including the following:
- The employee can perform his or her job with reasonable accommodations. The Social Security Administration does not consider how reasonable accommodations affect an employee’s ability to work.
- The nature or severity of the employee’s condition has changed over time. If the condition has improved since the employee applied for SSD benefits, the information provided in both claims may be true.
- The employee qualifies for benefits under SSA administrative rules but can still perform his or her work. If an employee suffers from an impairment listed in the “Blue Book,” the SSA presumes the employee is not capable of working gainfully. However, an individual may suffer from one of these disabling conditions and, due to unusual circumstances, still be able to work.
In the same ruling, the Supreme Court noted the employee is always responsible for explaining the apparent inconsistency between the two claims.
Reconciling the claims
People who receive benefits that suggest an ability to work, such as unemployment benefits or compensation from an ADA claim, should seek professional assistance when applying for SSD benefits. Similarly, people who already receive SSD benefits should understand the possible consequences of pursuing claims that apparently contradict the original SSD claim. Consulting with an SSD attorney can help beneficiaries understand how opening a new claim may affect their current benefits.