Since the Social Security Disability Insurance program was first created, it has maintained a simple but important goal: To ensure that disability does not have to result in poverty. This is similar to Social Security’s retirement benefits program, which seeks to ensure that workers do not fall into poverty simply because they become too old to work.
Sadly, the potential of the SSDI program is not being met. According to the results of a U.S. Senate committee investigation, one-third of Americans with disabilities are living in poverty.
The demographics of those living with disabilities are obviously varied. Some who have been disabled their entire lives are unable to join the workforce. Others can work despite a disability but have difficulty obtaining employment for a variety of reasons. Many Americans become disabled in adulthood and need to leave the workforce.
The Senate report found that among working-age adults without disabilities, 78 percent are participating in the workforce. But among working-age adults with disabilities, just 30 percent are participating. The report also found that twice as many people with disabilities are living in poverty, compared to those without.
To be sure, changes to programs like Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income cannot fully solve the problem. Disability is strongly associated with poverty for a number of reasons, including:
- Lack of access to affordable housing
- Lack of access to transportation
- Disability discrimination in employment
- Unreasonably low wages
- Fear about losing access to much-needed government services if individuals become employed
It will take serious time, effort and systemic change to address all of the barriers faced by Americans with disabilities. In the meantime, you may be eligible for SSD benefits if you have a history of employment but have become disabled. Please discuss your case with an experienced Social Security Disability attorney who can explain your rights and options.
Source: Disability Scoop, “Report: Nearly 1 In 3 With Disabilities In Poverty,” Shaun Heasley, Sept. 18, 2014