People with Disabilities at Risk of Losing Benefits

If Congress does not come to a consensus on the current Social Security dilemma, millions of Americans living with a disability will see their monthly federal benefits shaved from $1,130 to $900.

The Social Security disability benefits program is facing abrupt cuts, according to the 2015 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) and Federal Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund, released Wednesday.

Given that the DI trust fund, intended to provide assistance to people with disabilities, has decreased by 30 percent in each of the last fiveyears, it is projected to run dry by early 2017.

According to a poll conducted by, 57 percent of participants said they would not be able to afford one or more basic essential needs like housing, food or medicine; 27 percent said they would have to spend through savings faster than planned; and 14 percent said they would be forced into debt. Only two percent said they would not be affected.

The consequences of Congress failing to cover 11 million people with disabilities who benefit from these government subsidies are grave. Congress has traditionally shifted payroll tax revenues between the retirement fund and the disability trust fund to address projected shortfalls.

The average salary for an around-the-clock in-home nurse is roughly $65,000 a year, and any interruptions in payments to disabled workers will make it difficult for them to cover these high costs. According to the latest Social Security trustees report, if Congress does not act soon, people receiving benefits can expect a 20 percent cut as soon as next year. This would leave family members with the responsibility of covering the expenses.

According to another study conducted by Syracuse University, one in five people with disabilities cannot work, and those who do work tend to earn less and live in poverty at much higher rates than non-disabled people. Even for the minority who are able to find and hold down a job, the cost of living for a person with a disability, between things such as homecare, medical care and mobility, is exponentially higher than that of a non-disabled person.For example, Aimee Weheimer, the 43 year-old CEO of Paradquad who had muscular dystrophy, was just able to start a retirement plan due to her stifling medical bills.”Although it’s better late than never, starting a retirement plan at the age of 43 with a significant disability is a little frightening,” she said. Recently, she had to turn down employer paid retirement benefits to avoid losing her eligibility for Medicaid.

One short-term solution proposed by President Barack Obama in the fiscal year 2016 budget is to make it illegal for a person to receive both unemployment and Social Security disability simultaneously, allowing the same number of people to receive benefits, but a significantly less amount. The President’s administration also is looking to redistribute federal tax revenue in order to put a temporary blanket on this issue.

The next 18 months will be pivotal for a segment of the population who, just 25 years ago, was on the outskirts of society. In order for people with disabilities to substantially contribute to the work place they must be lifted from the financial burden currently placed on them. Any delay or decrease in benefits would halt a generation’s worth of progress speared by the ADA.

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