The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has led many people to believe that the barriers to employment of individuals with disabilities are gone, but unfortunately there are some rules that have hindered progress and discouraged the recipients.
The truth is that individuals with disabilities in the U.S. are twice as likely to be poor as someone without a disability, and also far more likely to be unemployed. The gap has actually widened in the 25 years since the ADA was enacted.
There is a point where an individual’s earnings will cause their state benefits to be discontinued, including their medical benefits, and they will no longer be considered disabled. This keeps many from striving for higher paying jobs as they are worried about losing their benefits. It is a “wall” in the ability to advance and it is a virtual guarantee that the individual will survive at slightly above the poverty line, and not be able to progress.
There are wage limits as well as asset limits that affect recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI). First we’ll look at the wage limits: In California, the maximum amount of money a person on SSI is allowed to earn is $1180.00 per month. As of 2018 if a person earns an income of more than $1180 a month, that person will not receive an SSI check. The person may also be determined to be no longer disabled.
If the individual works, the federal government reduces their SSI payment based on their earnings. They will receive a reduced SSI check along with their paycheck. In the end, after all of the deductions and restrictions, the individual’s financial situation will not have improved, or will improve only slightly. They will still have an income that is very near the poverty line.
Individuals with disabilities are also hampered by the rules in their ability to save money. For example, if an individual saves in order to improve their situation, if they hold more than $2,000, they risk losing their benefits. Financial gifts are also considered income, and will reduce or eliminate the SSI payment.
With these facts in mind, we can see that there is need for improvement in the SSI rules and the ADA. Currently, individuals with disabilities have little financial incentive in seeking employment, and they risk losing their benefits completely.
Nonetheless, millions of individuals with disabilities are seeking employment and are very worthy and capable being employed. It’s clear that employment brings benefits over and above the financial one for both the individual and the employer.
We look forward to changing laws, and finding ways for individuals with disabilities to lift themselves up out of poverty through employment, and do so without losing their SSI benefits.