Special day focuses on helping people with disabilities open doors

The United Nations’ Annual International Day of Persons with Disabilities held on Dec. 3 focuses on issues that affect people with disabilities worldwide.

This year marks the 21st observance and provides an opportunity to re-commit to helping persons with disabilities break down barriers.

In the United States, Social Security often is the primary source of income for people with disabilities. More than 9 of 10 American workers are covered by Social Security disability insurance, and Social Security provides benefits to young workers and their families if the worker should become disabled.

Social Security has a very strict definition of disability - a person must be unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity due to a physical or mental impairment that has lasted or is expected to last at least one year, or to result in death.

Social Security does not provide benefits for partial or temporary disabilities, so Social Security beneficiaries are most in need of support services if contemplating a return to work.

In fact, 40 percent of Social Security Disability Insurance beneficiaries express interest in working and Social Security has a number of programs to help in those return-to-work efforts. The work incentive programs feature:

  • continued cash benefits for a period of time while a beneficiary works;
  • continued Medicare or Medicaid coverage; and
  • help with education, training and rehabilitation to start a new line of work.

In addition to these incentives, many beneficiaries are interested in the “Ticket to Work” program, which can help people with disabilities receive vocational rehabilitation, training, job referrals and other employment support services free of charge.

Visit the website at socialsecurity.gov/work to learn more. Or read the Social Security publications for SSI and Social Security Disability Insurance recipients, “Working While Disabled-How We Can Help” and “Your Ticket To Work.” These and many other helpful publications are available at socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

Ed Evans is a Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in Seattle

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