Forced Poverty in the Disability Community

From an early age, individuals with disabilities face a unique set of financial challenges. For me, these challenges began at 16, a time when most teenagers are taking their first steps into financial independence through part-time jobs. However, for those of us living with disabilities, this time that should be filled with excitement and opportunity is often fraught with risk, particularly the fear of losing our important benefits.

Disability benefits impacted by income

This complex situation stems from unfair rules governing the amount of assets and income one can have while receiving disability benefits. These limitations force many into a state of perpetual financial vulnerability, often referred to as 'forced poverty.' For instance, in the United States, individuals on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can't have more than $2,000 in assets at any time, a figure that hasn't been updated significantly in decades and is not keeping pace with inflation and the increasing cost of living. If you live here in the US, you know that only having $2000 saved would not allow you enough money to purchase a new car or even a washer and dryer if needed in an emergency.

Marriage reduces benefits as spouse's income is considered

As I transitioned into adulthood, the situation became more complex. Getting married and becoming a mother brought immense joy but also deepened the financial inequity I faced. Marriage often results in a reduction or loss of benefits, as the system considers the spouse's income and assets. This approach fails to acknowledge the additional costs that come with disability, creating an environment where financial stability feels like an unattainable dream.

Impacts on dignity and independence

The forced poverty cycle is more than just a financial issue; it's a matter of dignity and independence. According to a report by the National Disability Institute, the poverty rate for adults with disabilities is more than twice that of those without disabilities. This statistic not only highlights the financial disparity but also underscores the systemic barriers that prevent individuals with disabilities from achieving financial independence.

As I became a mother I had desires to plan for my children’s futures, build generational wealth and begin the conversations around inheritance for my family. As I started asking questions to the people who had the power to make decisions regarding my medical benefits I found that many didn’t have answers nor could they point me in a direction to someone who would. The reality that the system is broken and unfair became more and more clear.

Losing benefits means losing health insurance and services

The financial limitations placed on individuals with disabilities extend beyond just income. Savings for emergencies, education, or even a modest vacation become luxuries, as exceeding the asset limit can result in losing essential healthcare and income support. This situation often leads to a lack of financial security and independence, impacting mental health and overall well-being.

These restrictions discourage work and savings, contrary to the very objectives of these programs. The fear of losing benefits for earning 'too much' creates a disincentive to work, perpetuating the cycle of poverty. For many, this means missing out on career opportunities, further education, and the sense of purpose and community that employment can provide.

The financial inequality faced by individuals with disabilities is a pressing issue that demands attention and action. The current system, with its outdated asset limits and income thresholds, perpetuates a cycle of forced poverty, limiting opportunities for financial growth and stability. It's time for a systemic change that recognizes the unique financial challenges faced by those with disabilities and provides a pathway to financial independence without the risk of losing crucial benefits. By addressing these issues, we can move towards a more inclusive and equitable society, where financial security is a reality for everyone, regardless of their abilities.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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