Disability in the U.S. is higher than most people think. Just over one in four people who are age 20 or older are expected to become disabled before they retire. Today, over 37 million Americans are classified as being disabled, with 50 percent of those still in their working years, between ages 18 and 64.
But, just over 5 percent of workers, 8.8 million people, received Social Security Disability. Women have a slightly higher chance of being disabled than men, with a 35 year old, 5â€™4â€, 125lb female non-smoker working mostly in an office job, doing some outdoor physical work, and leads a mostly healthy lifestyle having a 24 percent chance of becoming disabled for at least 3 months or more during her working career. She has a 38 percent chance of that disability lasting more than 5 years.
And, if she smoked, and weighed 160 lbs, her risk of being disabled for 3 months or more jump to 41 percent.
Males, on the other hand, have a 21 percent chance of being disabled for 3 months or more during their working years, assuming a 35 year old, 5â€™10â€ 170lb male non-smoker who works an office job. He also has a 38 percent chance of being disabled for 5 months or more, with average disability lasting 82 months. If the man weighed 280lbs, the risk of a 3 month disability jumps to 45 percent.
Obviously, risk factors like being overweight, using tobacco, engaging in high-risk activities or behaviors, having any chronic conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, back pain, anxiety or depression, or excessive alcohol consumption dramatically increase disability risk.
Types Of Benefits
There are two types of benefits: Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income.
When you apply for either program, the government collects medical, and other, information to make a decision about whether youâ€™re eligible to receive benefits.
Social Security Disability was designed for workers who become disabled and cannot perform any work, and are not expected to be able to return to work, for at least a year. If you are deemed eligible, you will receive a monthly disability benefit until youâ€™re able to return to work. If you are receiving disability benefits when you reach full retirement age, then the disability benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits, but the amount you receive remains the same.
Part of the qualification process involves a medical exam, but you must also have worked at a job that was covered by Social Security. You, and your employer, must have paid Social Security tax, and accumulated between 6 and 40 credits, depending on the age of your disability.
If you become disabled at your current job, you will need to have accumulated 20 credits during the period of 40 calendar quarters that end with the quarter the disability began.
All benefits are calculated based on your earnings prior to disablement, and you must be disabled a full 5 months before you qualify for disability insurance. Entitlement begins in the first full month after the end of the 5-month blackout period.
Supplemental income insurance was established to help the blind and disabled – children under age 18 and adults over 18.
Supplemental income insurance payments can be discontinued for any number of reasons. For example, if there is excess countable income, if you die, or if youâ€™re no longer disabled, the benefits will cease.
The application process is pretty straightforward. First, you will turn in an application, either by mailing it in, filling it out online, or meeting with a representative in person. The state agency completes the disability decision for the Social Security Administration. They will ask your doctors about your medical condition, when it began, how your condition limits your ability to work or perform other activities, what the medical tests show, and the treatment youâ€™ve received.
The SSA uses a 5-step process to determine if youâ€™re disabled, and then either approves your application for benefits, or declines you.
If you are declined, you may appeal the decision through a formal appeals process. If you are blind or have low vision, there is special assistance for you.
Aside from Social Security Disability benefits, you may also qualify for ancillary benefits , which are funded at either the state or federal level.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): This program, formerly known as â€œfood stamps,â€ helps low income and disabled individuals get the food they need when they cannot afford it themselves. It provides basic assistance to ensure that you donâ€™t starve if you cannot work and earn enough to buy the food you need.
Lifeline Assistance Program: This program is for low income individuals who cannot afford a phone. It provides you with a free, modern, cellular phone that you can use to make phone calls and text messages.
The Low-Income High Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP): This program helps you pay for heat and electricity, and other basic utilities, depending on where you live.
Lisa Spencer works in health services and encounters disability problems and related issues on a regular basis. She likes to share her insights with an online audience and frequently writes for several relevant websites.