Claims under both systems may be acceptable

Many people who live with disabilities in Illinois struggle to perform their jobs. If employers don’t offer reasonable accommodations, these employees may claim discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. If a disability prevents gainful employment, employees may also seek Social Security Disability benefits. These claims may seem contradictory. However, as any Social Security attorney in Illinois knows, ADA claims do not render people ineligible for SSD benefits.

Distinct claim criteria

ADA and SSD claims hinge on different premises. In an ADA claim, a worker contends he or she could perform a specific job with reasonable accommodations. SSD claimants allege they cannot perform their past jobs or any new work.

The terms of an ADA claim may seem to undermine an SSD claim. However, any Social Security attorney in Illinois can explain that SSD claims don’t account for reasonable accommodations. A disabled worker may be able to perform a job with accommodations, but not under other circumstances.

Furthermore, an individual’s ability to work is not always considered during SSD claims. People may qualify as disabled by meeting requirements in the Social Security Administration’s “Blue Book” of impairments. People also may receive medical-vocational allowances, based on factors such as age, work experience and functional ability. Occasionally, people found disabled through either process might be capable of working in some capacity.

Concurrent claims

The Supreme Court ruled on this issue in 1999. The case involved an employee who suffered a stroke and associated effects that prevented her from working. She sought SSD benefits, but then her condition improved and she resumed work. The SSD application was denied. Days later, the woman was terminated for her job performance. She requested reconsideration from the SSA. Then, before the SSA approved the claim, she filed an ADA claim.

The Fifth Circuit Court held that the woman’s SSD application prevented her from pursuing an ADA claim. However, the Supreme Court reversed this decision and reached the following conclusions:

  • Sometimes, the same facts may reasonably support valid ADA and SSD claims.
  • The apparent contradictions between these claims are not strong enough to justify negative presumptions against claimants.
  • In these cases, claimants must reconcile any irregularities between their two claims.

If a claimant secures SSD benefits or wins an ADA claim, the outcome may impact the other claim. However, filing a claim within one system does not automatically invalidate a claim under the other system.

Understanding how SSD claims interact with other claims can be challenging. People who may have grounds for two claims should consider consulting with a Social Security attorney in Illinois. An attorney may be able to offer advice on potential complications and interactions between the claims.