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How Common is it to Become Disabled?

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By Scott B. Elkind, Esq.

Should you become disabled, you are joining a very, very large club. Some of the disability statistics are remarkable and should provide those suffering with a disability some degree of comfort in their decision not to return to work.

  • Almost one in every five people has some sort of disability with one in seven having an activity limitation due to a disability
  • Persons working with a disability decrease as these workers age. There are currently
  • The vocational rehabilitation system is rather ineffective, assisting only about 10% of people with disabilities in returning to work
  • As of 2011, there are 8.5 million persons receiving disability benefits from SSA which comprises 5% of the total workers in the U.S.
  • SSA will award more than 1 million persons disability benefits in 2011 alone
  • The average monthly award from SSA in 2011 is $1150/month
  • Nearly 90% of disability payments are made to disabled workers
  • One in four 20-year-olds will become disabled before they retire
  • 61% of all wage earners personally know a person who has received disability benefits
  • The average long-term disability absence lasts 2and 1/2 years
  • More than one in five workers will be disabled for 5 or more years during their working careers
  • Although 64% of wage earners believe they have a 2% or less chance of becoming disabled, the actual odds are closer to 30%
  • Most workers estimate their own chances of suffering from a long term disability to be substantially lower than an average worker’s
  • Medical problems contribute to 62% of all personal bankruptcies in 2007 and contributed to more than 500,000 personal bankruptcy filings
  • The leading causes of disability in 2010 were musculoskeletal disorders (26.2%), nervous system conditions (13.7%), cardiovascular conditions (13.1%), and cancer (4%)


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