TEHRAN, YJC. Nearly a third of Americans getting government assistance say they are disabled, new research shows.
The U.S. Census Bureau on Tuesday said roughly 46 million Americans — 20% of the U.S. population not in places like prison, nursing homes or the army — got some kind of government assistance in 2011. Of these 46 million people, 30.4% reported being disabled in one or more ways. Almost 20% of beneficiaries of programs like the Supplemental Security Income and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (a.k.a. food stamps) had major difficulty walking or climbing stairs, while around 15% had difficulty going outside the home to shop or visit a doctor’s office. Fourteen percent had trouble with memory, concentration and making decisions.
The Census report is the first of its kind, making past comparisons difficult. Changes in how the government collects data on different social-assistance programs in recent years also make comparisons invalid. Still, a glance at disability rates among recipients of specific programs and previous Census research drawing on other data suggest "the level of disability within these programs is remaining fairly constant,” co-author Matthew Brault said. The information in Tuesday’s report comes from a survey that asks questions about difficulty hearing, seeing, walking and climbing stairs, remembering and concentrating, dressing and bathing, and going outside to do errands. If respondents say "yes” to any question, they are considered to have a disability.
The prevalence of disability among recipients varies by state. States around and just west of the Appalachian mountain range had higher rates of disability among recipients. That makes sense since West Virginia, Kentucky and Arkansas are among the top states in terms of disability in the broad population. Over 40% of West Virginia assistance recipients were disabled; 27% reported walking difficulties. But many other U.S. states were above the national average too. The percentage of recipients saying they were disabled in Alabama, Kansas and Pennsylvania was 37%, 36% and 35%, respectively. Wyoming and New Hampshire don’t have particularly high numbers of disabled people, yet relatively high percentages of their assistance recipients were disabled — 40% and 38%, respectively. Oregon is the opposite: It has a higher-than-average disabled population yet fewer of its recipients are disabled.