5 Disability Facts that Are Just Plain Wrong

5 Disability Facts that Are Just Plain Wrong

In the era of Facebook and 24-hour cable news, everyone shares images and memes that appear to feature well-known disability facts. It’s a hot topic, which means there’s a lot of misinformation flying around out there. In a rapidly changing, sped-up economy, many folks worry about having to keep working their whole lives just to survive. It’s also become disturbingly easy to believe your hard-earned Social Security retirement money might end up in someone else’s pocket. So how can you distinguish disability facts from fiction online?

Disability Facts In Popular Memes and Shared Images Usually Aren’t True

It appears that we’ve reached peak “fake news” about Social Security retirement and disability benefits. So, we thought we should dispel some key myths on this topic by sharing some real disability facts with you. Below, we’ll list five myths that stay popular in pop culture and the media — followed by the true disability facts. (And don’t worry, we always back up our disability facts with sources and numbers sourced directly from the Social Security Administration.)



Fake News Fact #1: Many people go straight from unemployment to disability.

The Reality: While you can go straight from unemployment to disability benefits if you became too disabled to work, it’s not typical. About 20% of Americans with disabilities actually do participate in the workforce. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for disabled Americans in 2016 was only 10.5%.

Fake News Fact #2: People sign up for disability when they turn 18 and stay “on the system” to get benefits for life.

Before we debunk this one, just remember: Any disability facts people share on Facebook that spark outrage or anger usually aren’t true. But the ones you really have to watch out for are disability facts that are partly true. This is one of those partly true disability facts, because it can apply to children born blind and those whose lives are cut short by terminal illnesses.

The Reality: You must work at least 5 of the last 10 years to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. SSDI only pays benefits to you and certain members of your family if you’re covered. To qualify for benefits under SSDI coverage, that means you’ve worked enough full-time years and paid into Social Security taxes. In other words, you’d have to start working full-time at age 8 to qualify for SSDI on your 18th birthday. Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI), however, are meant to help anyone blind or disabled who earns less than $1,170 per month. This SSI program also provides benefits to children younger than 18 and individuals who reach full retirement age. That said, $735 is the maximum monthly individual payout for SSI benefits. So, unless you have a permanent disability that isn’t expected to improve over time, you cannot stay on benefits forever. And even if you do, the amount you’ll be paid every month is very modest.

Fake News Fact #3: Social Security is running out of money, and people on disability could keep others from drawing their earned retirement benefits.

Unfortunately, this is one of those completely made up disability facts that never has been (and never will be) true!

The Reality: The Disability Insurance (DI) and Old-Age Survivor Trusts administered by the Social Security Administration are, by law, two separate funds. It is technically impossible for people receiving either SSDI or SSI disability benefits to deplete the SSA’s retirement funds.

Fake News Fact #4: The number of people signing up and collecting disability benefits continues to skyrocket each year.

The Reality: In December 2015, 8,909,430 disabled workers collected benefits. As of September 2017, 8,736,000 disabled workers collected benefits. That’s nearly a 2% drop, which shows that the SSDI beneficiary numbers are steadily going down. In fact, the disabled worker beneficiary numbers have been trending downward for the past three years. In December 2015, about 8,300,000 people received SSI benefits; by September 2017, that number fell to 8,228,000. That’s nearly a 1% drop within two years, and SSI beneficiaries still comprise less 2.6% of the total U.S. population.

Fake News Fact #5: Monthly SSDI and SSI benefits are keeping men in their prime working years from finding a job.

The Reality: According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, this myth is misleading for several reasons. First, in June 2017, the large majority of SSDI beneficiaries were 60-65 years old. Second, the number of men aged 30-49 receiving SSDI payments remains virtually unchanged since 1996. In 1996, 1,066,506 men aged 30-49 received SSDI payments. More recently, in 2015, the number of male SSDI beneficiaries aged 30-49 was 1,071,954. This indicates a .5% increase, which means SSDI isn’t driving the decline in male workforce participation.

The same is true for men aged 30-49 receiving SSI benefits. When we compare the male SSI beneficiary numbers in 1999 (749,286) to 2015 (737,655), numbers declined by more than 1.5%.

You May Qualify for Free Legal Assistance

If you’re disabled and ready to learn the real disability facts about getting your benefits claim approved, we can help. In fact, you may qualify for free legal assistance with your claim from an experienced Social Security attorney near you. To see if you may qualify online, click the button below to start your free benefits claim evaluation now.

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