Senator Paul’s comments regarding people with disabilities and the assistance they receive that keep them a part of their community shows that Mr. Paul desperately needs to be educated on the facts. Most people do not wake up in the morning and say to themselves, “Gee, I hope I get a disability today so that I can ‘game the system’.” A large number of individuals who receive disability payments paid into that system themselves for a number of years, just like Social Security Retirement. We in the disability community were dismayed to learn that our Senator made such insensitive remarks regarding the 874,000 individuals in Kentucky who have a disability.
Fraud in disability programs is estimated to amount to less than 1 percent and is extremely rare, as the agency’s watchdog has found. Its inaccurate payments rate is also less than 1 percent. SSDI payments are far from comfortable, averaging $1,130 a month, just over the federal poverty line and usually replacing less than half of a beneficiary’s previous earnings. Very few beneficiaries are able to work and supplement that income: less than 17 percent worked at some point during the year in 2007, but less than 3 percent of those people made more than $10,000 annually. People with disabilities do want to work but lack of affordable and accessible transportation, unfounded biases by employers, inaccessible work places, and continued stigma and negative stereotypes by the general public and elected officials are huge barriers to individuals with disabilities obtaining meaningful, gainful employment.
The Center for Accessible Living is an innovative leader in empowering all people to achieve their goal of independent living. We work on a daily basis with people with disabilities helping them to achieve independence and be integrated into the community. We invite Senator Paul to meet with us so that we may share our concerns and educate him on the day-to-day reality of people with disabilities and the discrimination they face every day.
Associate Director, Center for Accessible Living