Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Finding a Job After Disability

The biggest worry people on Disability have perhaps is how to find a new job when you're ready to go back to work.  Those concerns include how you explain this lengthy period of not working without telling a potential employer that you were disabled and hadn't been working at all, will the total devastation to your credit ratings over the period of disability make you unhireable (like they say in those horrifying commercials), and what happens to your disability benefits.  I can only answer based on my own experience, but I feel it will answer a lot of people's most dire concerns.

Employment Verification and Background Checks: the KISS Rule

Easily the biggest worry is sending out a resume which says that you either currently work or did work until recently at the company you were an employee of while you were on disability.  What if a background check reveals that you actually haven't worked there in months or years?  Should you only put down the period that you did actual, physical work?  The good news is that so long as you are officially an employee, working or not, you can put down that entire period on your resume and it will pass a background check.  Even if you took the last month or more of your employment as vacation pay it counts.

When asked by anyone--future employer, bartender, neighbor, President of the United States, extra terrestrial, anyone--why you left an employer, there are only two answers: "I was laid off" or "I wanted to seek a better opportunity" / "better fit."  Those are good, professional answers.  You never say, "I was disabled by an accident and then replaced in my job" or "I was fired."  No background check is going to reveal otherwise.  The question isn't why you no longer work at that company; what they want to know is if you will fail if they hire you at their company.

If you're not exactly sure what your period of employment was, you can usually do what the background checkers do and get an Employment Data Report for free from sites like The Work Number which receive these reports from various companies.  This report will also tell you your exact job title (which may be different from what you called yourself or what was on your business cards), rate of pay, and what your benefits package included, so that when you submit information which has to be accurate and easily verifiable, it will be.  You don't want to have a potential employer contacting your former manager, who might say something you wish they hadn't.  Instead give them the link or phone number to the employment verification service or Human Resources--which will know what they legally can and cannot say at risk of legal action against them, and simply verify your period of employment.

In my case for example, I was hit by a car after only one week on the job, and I went on Disability only two months after that, but I was an employee of the company for two years.  Two years is what appears on my resume, and it stands up to employment verification because it's the truth.  The fact is, I was an employee of the company for two years. No one needs to know anything more than that.

As a general rule, you should only give an answer of just a few words, a sentence at the most, such as "laid off" or "resigned."  Don't tell a story; don't complain about your former employers, coworkers, managers, or circumstances.  As the saying goes, follow the KISS rule: Keep It Simple Stupid.

Will A Credit Report Ruin Your Ability to Get a Job?

Next big worry you might have is that whether because of your period of Disability, the economy, a combination of the two, or if you simply have always had financial trouble for whatever reason, that your credit rating or credit report might make you unhireable.  No doubt you have seen terrifying commercials on television for debt consolidation and credit repair which claim exactly that, but they're lying.

A credit report is not going to reveal your credit rating to potential employers.  It's simply a part of a background investigation to see if you are irresponsible.  And maybe you are, maybe you never pay your bills on time, maybe you've been dodging paying your student loans or owe back taxes, maybe you have collections chasing you over an old gym membership or electric bill from a previous apartment which you haven't gotten around to or never intend to pay.  None of these things, even all of them combined, will ruin your ability to get a job.  They're looking for really severe problems like failing to pay child support and there being a judgement against you for it, or some other dire legal trouble.  They are not going to deny you a job because your credit cards are maxed out and your bank account is overdrawn.  They're looking for fraud.  And of course they're not going to deny you a job for collecting unemployment or disability checks either--which they couldn't find out unless you were dumb enough to volunteer that information.

That's it.  It's that simple.  Don't worry about your credit report when applying for a job.

Social Security Benefits: How and When Do Then End?

And finally, what about your Social Security Disability benefits.  Again, just my experience, but SSD has been extremely helpful throughout my entire disability period.  I was approved after a medical exam and the only other contact I had with them was after a year and a half when they sent me a form asking me about my work.  They had the private Long Term Disability insurer down as an employer, which required correction of course, but otherwise I simply marked that I wasn't working at all, no longer employed, and not receiving any source of income besides SSD benefits.  I included a letter telling them that I was expecting to start working again soon at a new job, and when I followed up with a phone call was told that I should notify them the day I received my first paycheck.  They also informed me that I could continue to receive SSD benefits for a couple of months after starting my new job as it was considered 'trying' to go back to work--because for all I know I could find out I wasn't as recovered as I thought I was.  In fact I met someone when I went for my exam who had to go back on disability repeatedly because since he was injured he had tried to go back to work a few times but was physically unable to hold down a job; just talking to him I could tell he was in a hell of a lot of pain, and couldn't imagine him putting in even a half day in that condition.

Of course my biggest concern would be receiving money after a status change, using it, and then having to pay it back, so at this point I just want to make sure Social Security knows what's going on and that I know if I've received money that I need to send back or will be taken back from my account.  But I'm not going to feel guilty about receiving this money for a couple of months after I start working again of course because, after all, it's my money, which I contributed to Social Security over years of working, and I will continue to contribute to Social Security in greater and greater amounts in the years to come until I finally retire.  At the very least, that money will be helpful in getting my life restarted, including new work clothes, and relocation expenses for my new job.


As always, I want to make sure readers are aware that I am not an expert on Disability and that while I hope this information may be helpful to you it does not apply to all cases.  You should consult your own experts with regard to your particular circumstances.

And lastly, please feel free to comment and share your own information and experience.


  1. Can you switch the backgrond colour to something better as Black is hard on the eye's! I am disabled due to a motorcycle accidents and genitic problems.

    1. Thanks Bill. This was my first blog of two--the other is and I struggled just setting it up at first. This simple design is better for many reasons, not the least of which is that it's just plain easier to read and print.

  2. You're such an inspiration! What you experienced may be traumatic, but you moved on and going back on track! And this is a very informative post. I think it's good for all to know the options available when faced with such situation. Disability happens unexpectedly, and it's good to have knowledge on the process and what to do or whom to contact. Anyway, I know this may be late but how are you now? - Erminia Cavins @

    1. I don't feel that my term of disability made me any less qualified for a job than I was the day before I was hit. But there is a struggle going from having virtually no schedule then returning to a daily routine which must include getting enough sleep. Even on my days off, it's hard to 'recondition' my wife from being used to me being available to things that I would normally do--such as Cycling in my case--which she needs to work around.

      Legally though, except for the few times I've had to sign yet another form for some bill associated with the expenses that are supposed to be paid by the No Fault insurer, I haven't had to get in any big fights. The down side of that is, if someone is chasing after you for, say, an anestesiologists bill from your surgery because they don't have the form filled out needed to collect from the insurer who is supposed to pay, that's going to damage your credit report. There seems to be no way of avoiding this financial hazard.

      Physically, I can ride a bike again, but I'm not up to my normal speed. Imagine someone riding at a novice pace who had the expertise of an over twenty-five year veteran of the asphalt and dirt yonder.

      I still can't run, jump, or climb, but I'm training to correct that.

  3. There are job positions that will come your way even if you are disabled but it is up to you on how you would handle it.