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By Scott B. Elkind, Esq.

The Urban Institute ‘s Program on Retirement Policy has issued a position paper which highlights the importance of Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits for American Workers.

  • The SSD program is this largest support program for working-age adults with disabilities, paying benefits to 8.9 million workers and 2.1 dependents in April, 2013
  • SSD benefits account for the majority of family income for nearly half of beneficiaries and more than two-thirds of unmarried beneficiaries
  • In general, disability benefits are modest and replace no more than half of what beneficiaries earned before receiving SSD
  • Benefits are paid progressively higher for workers with lower indexed monthly earnings as compared to workers with higher indexed monthly earnings
  • Receiving benefits is more likely as age increases as follows: 60 – 64 (12.3%), 55 – 59 (9.1%), 50 – 54 (6.4%), 31 – 49 (2.7%)
  • Persons with limited education are more likely to receive disability benefits than persons with more education (as they have fewer skills and tend to do more heavy, physical work)
  • Racial variance occurs with non-Hispanic African Americans receiving benefits at 1.5 times the frequency as non-Hispanic whites of the same age. Hispanics are less likely than non-Hispanic whites to collect benefits at young ages, but more likely to collect at older ages
  • Slightly more than half of beneficiaries receive no more than $1050/month
  • Unmarried beneficiaries are far more dependent on SSD payments than married beneficiaries
  • Families receiving SSD benefits receive the largest share of their income from program beneficiaries
  • Disability benefit beneficiaries are disproportionately lower income
  • Many DI beneficiaries live below the near or at poverty levels and are especially high for long-term disability benefit recipients (as they tend to have less accumulated wealth due to collection of disability benefits at a relatively young age). Poverty rates are high for person not receiving disability benefits and having significant disabilities

These facts demonstrate why SSD benefits are a crucial means of support for this nation’s vulnerable disabled population and better explains many of the important aspects of how this program actually works.

Scott Elkind is an attorney in Silver Spring, MD whose practice focuses on disability issues. He can reached at 301-495-6665.

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