Disabled Persons and Poverty
Information Bulletin #197
People with disabilities between 18-64, who have never been able
to work or who can no longer work, receive either Supplemental
Security Income (SSI) and/or Social Security Disability Insurance
(SSDI). Based on the following data, our national government and
elected officials seem to have forgotten to address disability and
poverty. Maybe the same can be said for disability advocates in
Nationally, there are about 10 million people between 18 and 64
who are disabled and receive either SSDI and/or SSI. It's
important to break down these numbers to understand the extent of
poverty these people face.
First, let's look at the nearly 6 million people with disabilities
in this age category who receive SSDI only. These 6 million
receive an average of about $950 a month in SSDIb only 24% above
the federal poverty level. The federal poverty level for a single
person is $9,800 a year or $816 a month. As with all "averages,"
there are many folks below the $950 a month.
Second, there are 3 million disabled people between 18 and 64 who
receive SSI only. The monthly SSI federal payment averaged $469 a
month -- 43% BELOW the federal poverty level. If a person were
lucky enough to live in one of the 30 states that provide both the
SSI federal payment and a state optional and mandatory
supplementation to the federal SSI payment, then their total
monthly benefits are about $603 a month and still 26% BELOW the
Third, there are about 1 million people who receive a combination
of SSDI and SSI. These people receive a combination of SSDI and
SSI because their SSDI benefits fell well below their State's SSI
payment. They are then eligible for a SSI payment up to the SSI
benefit level. (Obviously, these are the poor SSDI recipients.)
These 1 million people receive an average SSI payment of $189 a
month to supplement their SSDI. This means these 1 million were,
before they became disabled, low-income workers and/or were
sporadically employed and did not earn enough from wages to
receive an SSDI benefit that exceeded the minimum SSI benefits.
Since their SSI benefits with their SSDI benefits equal only the
minimum SSI level, their total monthly combined benefits total
about $603 a month.
When viewing people with disabilities and poverty, we should look
at those 4 million SSI recipients with disabilities between 18-64
who receive SSI only or a combination of SSI and SSDI and all of
whose incomes fall at least 26% BELOW the federal poverty level.
If these figures were not discouraging enough, then there are the
resource limitations and exclusions that must be satisfied to
qualify for SSI: countable income cannot exceed $2,000 for an
individual and $3,000 for a couple. This has not changed since the
SSI law was enacted more than 30 years ago!
Many people of the 6 million people with disabilities receiving
SSDI only, who would qualify for a SSI payment, because their
monthly SSDI benefits are low, do not apply for SSI because the
resource limitations. They are discouraged from applying for the
measly SSI monthly income solely because they have saved more than
$2,000 and are afraid to part with it in order to qualify for SSI.
If you want to know whether or not your State pays an optional
state supplementation to SSI, the number of disabled who receive
it, and the amount, if any, you can find it at
6/index.html, click on your state and look at Tables 1 and 2.
1. Why should any person with a disability have to survive on less
than the poverty level? Isn't it time for a state campaign to
raise SSI levels to the poverty level?
2. If your State does not provide State Supplementation to federal
SSI payments, how can any elected official expect a person with
disability to survive on $469 or even $603 a month? Why doesn't
your State provide it? Why haven't the disability advocates taken
up this issue?
3. What about national legislation to increase the minimum federal
SSI and to significantly increase or eliminate altogether the
resource limitations? What are our national inside the beltway
advocates doing to address this issue? With the recent talk of a
national minimum wage, what about a national SSI payment at least
at the poverty level?
Source: Steve Gold