Two Hats, One Head: Reconciling Disability Benefits and the American with Disabilities Act of 1990
Jorge M. Leon | 1997 U. Ill. L. Rev.
In 1990, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act to help disabled individuals gain the same employment opportunities as people without disabilities. Thirty-four years previously, the SSDI program was created to provide financial assistance to disabled individuals when disability made the possibility of employment unlikely. With the availability of the ADA and the SSDI program, a disabled individual who makes an employment claim under the ADA also may have made or be making claims for SSDI benefits or private disability insurance. The author of this note argues that when a disabled individual claims total disability in order to receive benefits, she should be judicially estopped or prevented as a matter of law from pursuing an employment claim under the ADA. The author examines the definitions of “disability” under the ADA and the SSDI program to show the contradiction in making assertions under both. He then evaluates how various courts have handled the interplay of the ADA and disability benefits in employment cases. By analyzing the policies and purposes behind the ADA and SSDI, the author demonstrates the logical inconsistency of allowing a claimant to receive benefits while making employment discrimination claims. Finally, the author raises concerns about the ability of the SSDI program to absorb claimants who might first be able to seek the financial benefit and employment protection of the ADA.