National Disability Institute Finds Adults with Disabilities Less Financially Stable than Adults without Disabilities

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

As you can tell from our blog topics over the last few weeks, the staff of M&L really pay close attention to current events – in addition to keeping our eye on the political world and keeping abreast of government policy changes, we also make a point to review the latest reports, academic studies and statistical surveys that are relevant to the special needs community.

Last week, we came across a report that we found particularly alarming, especially considering that it is our goal to ensure that our clients have financially secure and stable futures. This report (which was released by the National Disability Institute) found that adults with disabilities are less financially stable than adults without disabilities. As this report was released 24 years after the signing of the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA), a piece of legislation that “guaranteed all individuals with disabilities the opportunity to achieve “economic self-sufficiency,” disability advocates and professionals in the field are worried – and understandably so.

The ADA – What is it?

In order to fully understand exactly why advocates, individuals with disabilities, and professionals in the field of special needs are so alarmed by the results of this report, it is perhaps important to be aware of the American’s with Disabilities Act, and to fully understand the intent behind the law. So, to begin, below is a brief background and description of the ADA:

This piece of legislation – which was signed into law by George H.W. Bush in 1990 –  prohibits discrimination of individuals with a disability in employment, public services, public accommodations, and telecommunications. According to an ADA fact sheet, found on the website for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “Title 1 of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.” Note: to access the full text of this quote and other facts about the ADA, please click here.

As the NDI perfectly summarizes in their 2014 report, “despite the promise of [the ADA] to protect against discrimination and promote equal opportunity, little has changed regarding the employment and economic status of working-age adults with disabilities.”

What exactly is this new NDI report?

This report, which was released July 22nd, is titled Financial Capability of Adults with Disabilities– it is intended to shine a light on the economic situation of Americans with disabilities in the hopes that “the original aims of the Americans with Disabilities Act can be met,” and “that all persons with disabilities can enjoy economic self-sufficiency and well-being through increased financial capability.”

Quite simply, the report uses information from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation’s 2013 National Financial Capability Study to provide an analysis of the financial capability of adults with disabilities. By narrowing the focus to examine the data from individuals who selected “permanently sick, disabled, or unable to work” as compared to adults without disabilities, the NDI was able to provide a comparison of the financial well-being and financial capability between the two groups. The organization did this by comparing these two groups across a number of different categories, including “how respondents make ends meet, plan ahead, manage financial products, as well as their level of financial knowledge and decision making.”

The results of this report show that the capability of individuals with disabilities was lower than individuals without disabilities in every category.

Here are some highlights/major findings of this report, as taken from the NDI’s press release:

  • 78 percent of people with disabilities found it difficult to make ends meet, as compared with 56 percent of people without disabilities;
  • 70 percent of people with disabilities responded they could not come up with $2,000 in an emergency, as compared with 37 percent of people without disabilities;
  • 44 percent of people with disabilities had unpaid medical bills, as compared to 25 percent of people without disabilities;
  • 81 percent of people with disabilities did not have an emergency fund to cover three months of expenses, as compared to 54 percent of people without disabilities;
  • Only 18 percent of people with disabilities had determined their retirement savings needs, as compared with 41 percent of people without disabilities;
  • 84 percent of people with disabilities had not planned for their children’s college education, as compared to 62 percent of respondents without disabilities;
  • Only 30 percent of respondents with disabilities paid their credit card in full each month, as compared with 50 percent of respondents without disabilities;
  • 41 percent of people with disabilities used methods of non-bank borrowing, such as a pawn shop or payday loan, as compared with 29 percent of people without disabilities; and
  • 50 percent reported they were “not at all satisfied” with their current financial condition, as compared with 30 percent of people without disabilities.

What does this report mean to individuals with disabilities?

If nothing else, this report quite clearly shows that individuals with disabilities need significantly more support in regards to employment, economic self-sufficiency, and financial capability. In light of these findings, the NDI has developed a number of recommendations as to policy and program changes that they feel will help Americans with disabilities increase financial capability. In their report, the NDI states that more attention must be paid to supporting people with disabilities, especially those who have trouble obtaining employment or meeting their financial needs and goals. The organization has three specific recommendations which they feel will help government, policy makers, and the general public more receptive to the needs of these individuals, and will streamline programs that are being developed to support this group:

1.) That public and private sector stakeholders design and test innovative strategies aimed at supporting the development of financial skills and knowledge of youth and adults with disabilities.

2.) To establish a cross-system task force to build a collaboration strategy – this task force would identify cross agency strategy that explores policy and practice challenges and opportunities at a state and community level.

3.) Improve available information about people with disabilities; i.e. go beyond the minimum standard criteria for measuring disability as identified by the Office of Minority Health.

Note: To read these recommendations in full, please click this link to access the full report.

Would you like more information?

M&L special Needs Planning, LLC is always willing to help our readers our with any questions they may have – to learn more about this report, or to inquire as to how your family member with disabilities can achieve financial self-sufficiency by increasing his or her financial capability, please contact us!

In addition to helping your family financially plan for the future, M&L founder and owner Maedi Tanham Carney, CFP®, is a Certified Work Incentive Coordinator (CWIC).  A Certified Work Incentive Coordinator (CWIC) provides work incentives planning and assistance directly to beneficiaries with disabilities to assist them in their employment efforts. CWICs will also conduct outreach efforts to beneficiaries with disabilities (and their families) that are potentially eligible to participate in Federal or State work incentives programs. CWICs also provide general information on the adequacy of health benefits coverage that may be offered by an employer of a beneficiary with a disability; the extent to which other health benefits coverage may be available to that beneficiary in coordination with Medicare and/or Medicaid; and the availability of protection and advocacy services for beneficiaries with disabilities and how to access such services. If your family member with special needs would like to obtain employment, but needs help figuring out how a job would fit into his or her existing benefits, please do not hesitate to contact Maedi! She is more than happy to help any and all adults with disabilities increase their financial capability, by providing them with valuable advice and access to the right tools and information needed to make financial decisions.

Thanks for stopping by, everyone – see you next week!

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