Health is something that many of us take for granted. Yet for individuals with disabilities, having a medical or mental health problem can affect daily life in dramatic ways. As our health status can change in an instant, understanding more about disability is vital to our overall safety and well-being.
Disability Across the United States — and Locally
While many of us may assume that there are a relatively small number of people with disabilities in the United States, statistics demonstrate that there are millions of Americans with disabilities in every state of the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 61 million adults in the U.S. live with some type of disability. That is the equivalent of 26% of all Americans, or 1 in 4 adults in the country.
Many veterans also have disabilities, which is often linked to their military services. Across the United States, 25% of working-age veterans have a service-connected disability. 18.7% of veterans in New Jersey and 19.1% of veterans in Pennsylvania have a service-connected disability.
Women are slightly more likely (12.8%) than men (12.5%) to have a disability. While individuals may suffer from a range of disabilities, the most common types include:
- Mobility: 13.7%
- Cognition: 10.8%
- Independent living: 6.8%
- Hearing: 5.9%
- Vision: 4.6%
- Self-care: 3.7%
According to the CDC, adults living with disabilities are more likely to have obesity, smoke, and have heart disease and diabetes. This link between disability and certain health risks can be especially problematic given that many people with disabilities face barriers to healthcare. 1 in 3 adults with disabilities have unmet healthcare needs due to the cost of obtaining that care.
In New Jersey, approximately 10.2% of the population has a disability. This includes 9.8% of all men and 10.6% of all women. Even though this is lower than the national average, it still means more than 890,000 people in New Jersey are living with a disability. Consistent with national trends, older residents of New Jersey were the most likely to have a disability (19.6% for ages 65 to 74, and 43.3% for ages 75+), along with Native Americans (12.4%).
In Pennsylvania, 14.2% of all residents has a disability. Approximately equivalent numbers of men (14.1%) and women (14.4%) have a disability in the state. The groups most likely to have a disability include Native Americans (22.4%) and older Pennsylvanians (24% for ages 65 to 74 and 48.9% for ages 75+).
There are some types of disabilities that are more common in New Jersey and Pennsylvania than others. They include:
- Mobility: 5.7% (NJ); 7.6% (PA)
- Cognition: 4.0% (NJ); 6.0% (PA)
- Independent living: 4.9% (NJ) 6.4% (PA)
- Hearing: 2.5% (NJ); 3.9% (PA)
- Vision: 1.9% (NJ); 2.4% (PA)
- Self-care: 2.3% (NJ); 2.9% (PA)
As with national statistics, mobility disabilities are the most common in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
How Having a Disability Impacts a Person’s Income
When a person has a disability, it often affects their ability to work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 37.3% of people with a disability in the United States are employed. By comparison, 73.4% of Americans without a disability were employed.
For those people with disabilities who are able to work, the type of work that they can do is frequently limited. Workers with a disability are more likely to be employed part-time (31%), compared to individuals without a disability (17%). Employed people with a disability are also more likely to be self-employed than people without a disability.
Across the United States, people with disabilities tend to earn significantly less than people without a disability. On average, a person with a disability will earn .66 cents for every dollar earned by a person without a disability.
In New Jersey, 39.2% of working-age residents with a disability are employed, compared to 80.9% of residents without a disability. The numbers in Pennsylvania are similar: 37.1% of people with a disability are employed, while 80.4% of individuals without a disability have jobs. Both nationally (7.4% ) and locally (7.7% in NJ and 7.6% in PA), people with disabilities are actively looking for work.
The household income for an individual with a disability tends to be lower than for a person without a disability. The average salary of a person with a disability in the United States is $40,400, compared to $47,500 for a worker without a disability. In New Jersey, a person with a disability earns $61,000 per year, versus $96,100 for a person without a disability, and in Pennsylvania, the difference is $44,900 compared to $73,800 .
Given these statistics, it is perhaps unsurprising that across the United States, 26% of people with disabilities live in poverty (compared to 11.1% of the population without disabilities). The poverty rate is highest for individuals with a work limitation — 25.8% — and lowest for people with disabilities who were still able to work (9.8%). In New Jersey and Pennsylvania, a significant percentage of people with disabilities live in poverty (20.5% NJ; 28% PA)
Getting Help When You Have a Disability
Fortunately, there are programs available that can assist individuals with disabilities who may struggle to pay bills or otherwise support themselves. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which is administered through the Social Security Administration (SSA), offers benefits to people who have a disability and are unable to work as a result of that disability.
In 2017 alone, SSDI benefits were paid to nearly 10.1 million Americans. Of the 812,019 beneficiaries that year, 715,921 recipients (88%) were disabled workers. The program is vast, paying $11.5 billion in benefits to disabled beneficiaries over the course of the year.
The average age of a SSDI recipient is 55 years old, with a slight majority of recipients being male (just under 52%). The most common category of disability that qualified for benefits was diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue (32.7%). On average, individuals receive a monthly benefit of $1,196.87.
Another type of benefits administered by the SSA, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is also available to individuals with disabilities. SSI has different requirements than SSDI [LINK to recent blog post about SSDI vs. SSI? ], including having an extremely low income and limited assets.
17.7% of working-age people with disabilities in New Jersey receive SSI. This is the equivalent of 72,000 people (as of 2017). For SSI, the most common type of disability that qualifies for benefits is self-care disability (26.3%), followed by issues related to independent living (26.1%).
In Pennsylvania, 20.4% of working-age people with disabilities, or 174,100 individuals, receive SSI. As in New Jersey, the top two disabilities that qualified for SSI benefits in Pennsylvania are independent living (32%) and self-care (29.3%) disabilities.
For individuals with disabilities, receiving benefits — whether they are SSDI or SSI — may be the key to being able to stay out of poverty when unable to work. A skilled disability benefits attorney can work with you to help put together an application for benefits.
Work with a Disability Benefits Attorney
If you have a disability, you are not alone. Bross Frankel is here to help, with decades of combined experience advocating for individuals with disabilities throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
We provide individual service to each of our clients, starting with a free claim review to help you understand your rights and options. We know how challenging it can be to struggle with a disability while also facing financial stress, which is why we are dedicated to helping you obtain the best possible outcome. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation with a seasoned New Jersey & Philadelphia disability benefits attorney, contact our office today at (856) 795-8880, or reach out online.
Rich Frankel is the managing partner of Bross & Frankel. He is a member of the New Jersey and Pennsylvania bars. He has focused exclusively on disability and social security benefits since 2005.
Mr. Frankel joined what is now Bross & Frankel after having watched his father struggle with disability, fighting a lengthy illness. Mr. Frankel founded the firm’s veteran’s law practice and substantially grew the social security disability practice, focusing Bross & Frankel’s ability to fight for all of the disability benefits available to his clients.
Mr. Frankel additionally fights for clients in court, obtaining frequent victories in Social Security appeals and against insurance companies in Federal court.