Over the years the number of people classified as disabled has risen dramatically. So have Workers Compensation and SSI benefit payments.
While government programs help, most disabled folks need more than what the Social Security disability program provides. And it’s not easy to qualify. Fortunately there are more assistance programs available — public and private — than you might realize.
More good news is that as the number of disabled has increased, so has the percentage of disabled who have found employment. Perhaps due to a heating up of the economy, the Wall Street Journal reports a jump in the percent of disabled men aged 16 to 64 between 2009 and mid-2015 (for those who have at least a high school diploma). Still other reports claim the percentage has actually fallen due to benefit programs which some people use as an ongoing unemployment program.
Whatever the facts are, if you’re disabled you probably need help. Here we offer information and tips for Social Security benefits, schooling, employment, housing availability and accessibility and more:
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Are you concerned about taking standardized tests for applying to college, or about your ability to succeed at college without special accommodations for what may be your disability? According to a recent report of the Wall Street Journal, about one in four students at some of the best colleges in the country have some sort of disability, typically a mental health issue. These may cause the student to request (and receive) more time or different spaces to take exams. Some, including professors, question the fairness of these accommodations to other students. But there is unquestionably a rise in the number of mental-health relate disabilities being reported. Some universities have had to add extra space to give some test takers more quiet and privacy, others have had professors vacate their offices to provide more space. Who knows where all this will end up. But if you have been diagnosed with some physical or mental disability and a doctor will certify that, don’t be afraid to apply to college or to ask for what you need.
Update April 2018
Though not a grant opportunity there are some positive developments for those with disabilities with regard to assistance available for those who have a hard time dressing themselves and/or finding clothing does not bind in irritating places. Retailers including Walmart and Tommy Hilfiger have lines of clothing that feature things like magnetic buttons and seams that can be easily adjusted. Others are likely to follow suit since these lines are selling well. Check them out if you or a loved one could use help in this area. The clothing is available both in adult and children's sizes.
Update October 2017
The Social Security Administration has announced an increase in Social Security benefits — the largest one since 2012. The increase of 2% will start in December of this year if you are a disability beneficiary; others will receive their first increased check in January 2018. The average increase in monthly income will be about $27.38 for retiree beneficiaries and $23.44 each month for those who are receiving disability payments. Everyone may face increases in the cost of Medicare Part B … but at least there is a slight increase to help cover those even if the final paycheck amount remains pretty much unchanged.
You probably know or have heard of many people receiving Social Security Disability payments. In fact more than 56 million people in America have disabilities, and about thirty-eight million of those disabilities are severe.
Certainly one of the first places to start looking for financial and other assistance would be through the Social Security Administration. Be aware that the SSA does have very strict rules and restrictions regarding who can receive disability benefits. You must meet their eligibility requirements and be able to show medical proof of your disability and your inability (in most cases) to work for an income in order to receive additional payments. Learn more about the Social Security Administration.
In general you only receive these payments if you are unable to work. However, there are some instances where you can continue to earn an income. In fact the SSA can help you find a job that will provide you with some more cash flow without jeopardizing your Disability payments.
To find out what benefits you might be eligible for through Social Security you can fill out a questionnaire called “BEST” (for Benefits Eligibility Screening Tool). It only takes about ten minutes to do and the results will help you narrow down what programs you may pursue. The questionnaire will ask for information like where you live, what your citizenship status is, your marital status, current income, what other Social Security benefits you are receiving already, questions about your health, children, parents, when you became disabled, how much you own in assets and more. It sounds like a lot but you should be able to answer the questions fairly quickly. And the results can save you time and effort by steering you toward programs for which you can qualify.
Much of the process for student financial aid is the same for those with disabilities as for anyone else. Student aid may come in the form of grants (which never have to be paid back), loans (which must be paid back), work-study programs and of course scholarships. Pell Grants are an amazing resource since all you need to qualify is a low income! The process for applying is similar to that for other students. You can get a good overview with links to specific resources in this article about Grants for College. (And be sure to check out a quick quiz about Pell Grant eligibility to see if you could be eligible for an award of almost $6,000!).
There are also specific programs just for those with disabilities. Possible SSI benefits are described above in the section about Social Security Disability Payments. There are many scholarships available for students with disabilities. As one approach it would be good to use one or more of the best known free scholarship search sites like finaid.org and fastweb.com. Also take a look at Find Scholarships for tips about how and where to look for scholarships.
In addition you could do a simple internet search for scholarships for the disabled and add any keywords specific to your situation. Some are offered by companies like 1800wheelchair.com. They offer annual awards of $500 to students who have problems with mobility on campus. If you’re in California you might check out the CAPED General Excellence Scholarship ($1500) for disabled college students with GPA’s of at least 3.0. And one of the largest scholarships we’ve seen - in the amount of $10,000 - is awarded by Google and non-profit Lime Connect for those in the fields of computer science and technology.
A group called the Think Alive Foundation awards grants to help youth with disabilities achieve their dreams. Headquartered in Amherst, Massachusetts, they’ve been around since 2010. Their grants are available to all backgrounds. They want to help youth see beyond the limits of their disability and help them to aim high and go after their goals. They have a Facebook page that provides some information about what they do and profiles of past grant winners. Check them out and sign up to “join the lively thinkers” to get more information. Could be very inspirational for a young person who is determined to follow their passion.
If you are a renter or looking to rent, you have certain specific rights under the law. You may not be denied a rental simply because you are disabled. In addition you can’t be held to a different standard or application method that might disqualify you. Your landlord must make any necessary accommodations you might need as long as they do not place an undue financial burden on the landlord. “Reasonable modifications” are those which would give you full enjoyment of the facilities such as a ramp to get into a building or parking in a special area. Additional information and current details about recent legislation are available on the website of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. If you have questions or complaints you could contact your local office of that department.
If you own your home you may have to incur costs to modify it to accommodate your disability. The grants or other assistance programs available to help you with those costs vary widely from state to state and from time to time. The best advice is to do a search of your state’s website using terms such as “grants”, “disabled” and “home “modifications.” You might find grants available to disabled individuals (especially veterans) or, more likely, you might find community service agencies or other nonprofits which have received grants to help homeowners with such home repairs or improvements. You should also check out the resources outlined in Home Improvement Grants and Grants for Housing.
The Social Security Administration supports those wishing to work through the Ticket to Work Program. It helps interested disabled people from age 18 to 64 find “meaningful work” through its employment networks. Their services related to career development are designed based on your specific needs and abilities. They include Work Incentives through which you get to keep your benefits while you search and prepare for work and while you are gaining work experience. You should explore specific details on the website choose work.net. It will help you understand the specific impact on your benefits and how to pursue this opportunity. On that site you can also read Success Stories, check out Frequently Asked Questions and sign up for email updates about the program.
Wherever you are located, look for nearby Aging and Disability Resource Centers which provide services for seniors was well as those with disabilities. Also search your local area for Centers for Independent Living.