What Do You Do if You're Poor \xe2\x80\xa6 And Disabled?

Mar 29, 2013

By Helly Lee

Our country's safety net is designed to help people with varying degrees of need.  Unfortunately, some people find themselves dealing with multiple issues that exacerbate each other.  For instance, those who are disabled may also have to contend with living in poverty - indeed they might have become poor because their disability prevented them from working. 

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provide modest but critical income support for individuals with a medical impairment that limits them from work and helps cover the additional costs of disability that are beyond the scope of health insurance, such as accessible housing, or prepared meals. SSDI is a social insurance program earned by workers based on their employment history, while SSI serves poor families, including caregivers for children with significant disabilities.

Recently, National Public Radio (NPR) ran a series about federal disability programs that largely reinforce myths and stereotypes about the programs and the people who access them.

The question is often asked: "If you can't do your job because of your disability, why don't you just find another job that may accommodate you?"  Sure, it sounds like a logical question, but the reality of finding another job may be more complicated, especially when you take into consideration the demographics of those in areas where disability rates are high. Only 6% of the nation's working age population receive SSDI or SSI, but in some Appalachian and southern states (one of which is highlighted in the NPR story) more than 10% of the working-age population are beneficiaries of the programs. 

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