american flags, social securityDisability affects individuals from all walks of life throughout America. In fact, approximately 14 million people receive a check from the Social Security Administration’s disability program every month, and countless more are awaiting approval. The U.S. Census reports that nearly 57 million Americans suffer from some type of disability, and 38 million suffer from a disability that is severe. While nobody plans to become disabled, more than one-fourth of today’s 20-year-olds will suffer from a disability before they retire. Unfortunately, many individuals who have a disabling condition will never qualify for benefits, and for those who do, the wait is often long, with some claims taking years to process.

Types of Disabilities

Although injuries account for a significant number of disabilities, the majority are a result of various forms of illnesses. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), approximately 33.8 percent of newly disabled workers suffered from back pain or other musculoskeletal problems in 2011. Another 19.2 percent of individuals became disabled due to mental illness or developmental disorders, and the remaining disability cases were caused from illnesses like cancer, heart disease, stroke, and respiratory disease.

Age and Disability

As individuals grow older, their chances of suffering from some form of disability increases dramatically. While less than 10 percent of individuals under the age of 44 suffer from a severely disabling condition, about 25 percent of people age 55 and older are severely disabled. In 2013, just over 40 percent of individuals with disabilities were age 65 or older, and 36.6 percent of all people in that age group suffered from some type of disability.

Disability and Poverty

Nearly 30 percent of working-age people who are disabled live in poverty in the United States. In 2013, approximately 10.5 percent of disabled individuals who were unemployed reported that they were looking for work. While about 33 percent of Americans who live with disabilities are employed, their median earnings in 2013 were a mere $20,785. This is equal to about two-thirds of the median earnings for individuals who do not suffer from disabilities. Approximately 18.9 percent of disabled adults who are of working age receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to help them make ends meet.

Education and Disability

In 2013, about 34.2 percent of disabled individuals had a high school diploma or equivalent, while 31.4 percent had completed some college or an Associate’s Degree. Only 13.5 percent had a Bachelor’s Degree or higher.