This week marks the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, signed into law on July 26, 1990. According to data from the CDC, approximately 61 million Americans live with disabilities. This means one in four Americans live with a severe medical impairment that impacts their mobility, cognition, hearing, vision, independent living or self-care. The ADA legislation has been ground-breaking in providing physical accessibility and non-discrimination in employment. Still, the unemployment for persons with disabilities remains high. The unemployment rate for a disabled person is 14.4 percent compared to 9.5 percent in the general population. Today many in the disabled community continue to live in poverty.
Many adults with disabilities who were never able to enter the workforce receive Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). The SSI maximum benefit is currently $841 a month. This computes to an annual income of $10,092.00. The federal poverty level for 2021 for a household of one is $12,880. Income eligibility for SSI has not been adjusted since 1989. It remains at an asset and income limit of $2000 for an individual and $3000 for a couple. Excluding a home used a residence and one car, all other income/assets must place the individual below the poverty level.
The average benefit for an SSDI (Social Security Disability Income) individual is $1236 per month. These benefits are earned from working and paying FICA payroll taxes over a period of time. This average benefit translates to $14,832 per month.
Currently, before Congress, legislation is pending that would eliminate the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision which further reduces Social Security disability benefits (Senate Bill 1302); a bill to lift the Social Security payroll cap, raising the cap from $147,000 in income to $250,000 which would allow for higher monthly SSDI payments (House Bill 8005) and a bill to raise the income/asset cap for SSI claimants (Senate Bill 2065).
Still, legislation to avert poverty for the disabled community snakes through Congress at a slow pace. People with disabilities live in poverty more than twice the rate of people without disabilities. Half of the United States population living in long-term poverty are disabled. While we celebrate the law that recognized the disabled community, more work remains