So, just how hard is it to return workers who have gone out on disability to work at a time when empty cubicles abound?
Pretty hard, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS began publishing employment figures for people with disabilities along with employment figures for people with no disabilities in February 2010.
For U.S. workers with no disabilities, the unemployment rate fell to 8.9% in March, from 10.1% a year earlier. For workers with disabilities, the unemployment rate increased to 15.6%, from 13.9%.
But the majority of people with disabilities who have stayed in the labor market are employed, and the changes have not necessarily had an obvious effect at return-to-work efforts in the private disability insurance market.
Paula Aznavoorian-Barry, program manager for vocational rehabilitation and return-to-work for the group benefits unit at Liberty Mutual Group, Boston, said many employers are struggling with RTW programs because of the state of the economy, but they are trying to bring employees back out of concerns about alleviating strain on the remaining employees.