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Long-Standing Federal And State Laws Protect And Help People With Disabilities

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Boulos Michael, CRPC®, AAMS®

Wealth Advisor; Managing Partner
Stewardship Wealth Management Solutions
Office : (714) 455-2955
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Living with a disability — whether a severe illness from an early age, a recently diagnosed condition or a serious injury— can dramatically alter your life. Everything from medical treatments and therapies to managing ordinary household chores and job responsibilities may seem insurmountable.

Fortunately, over the years, the federal government, as well as individual state governments, have passed landmark laws to protect and aid people with disabilities. What are they and how do they benefit individuals experiencing a disability? How well-known and understood are these laws by those with disabilities and their families and caregivers?

Many people are still not aware of SSDI, or that they are eligible to apply for and receive disability benefits if they have paid into the program and meet the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) criteria. Even more are unaware that TTW is part of the SSDI program and can be of huge benefit to them as their medical conditions improve enough to return to work.

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It’s helpful to refresh our understanding of these essential laws designed to protect millions of people with serious illnesses or disabilities. One of the most indispensable programs for people with disabilities is the combined benefit of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and the Ticket to Work Program (TTW), a powerhouse initiative for those with disabilities who are choosing to re-enter the workforce.

SSDI And Ticket To Work: A Vital Combined Benefit

Many people are still not aware of SSDI, or that they are eligible to apply for and receive disability benefits if they have paid into the program and meet the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) criteria. Even more are unaware that TTW is part of the SSDI program and can be of huge benefit to them as their medical conditions improve enough to return to work.

The TTW Program, which allows SSDI beneficiaries to return to work if they are medically able, was signed into law in 1999. For nearly 25 years, this program has provided valuable incentives and services that help people work again or choose self-employment.

The combined SSDI and TTW benefit helps those with disabilities by:

· Providing free help from a Social Security-authorized Employment Network (EN) to return to work.

· Allowing them to retain their Medicare coverage for an extended time.

· Helping them reach financial stability and self-sufficiency, which is the ultimate goal of the TTW Program.

Historic Federal Laws Protect People With Disabilities

One of the earliest laws – the Fair Housing Act – was passed in 1968 under President Lyndon Johnson. An extension of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, this law broadly prohibits any discrimination concerning the sale, rental or financing of housing based on disability, race, religion, sex and other protected classes.

A powerful law speaking directly to people with disabilities was passed in 1973. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 declares that any employer or organization that receives financial assistance from a government agency or department may not deny individuals with disabilities equal access to programs and benefits. For example, it is illegal for universities, which typically receive federal funding, to discriminate based on disability.

In 1975, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act — renamed to Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1990 — was passed to protect children, up to the of age 21, from being discriminated against when they are eligible for special education and related services. Disabilities that make a child eligible for such services include autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, vision or hearing impairments and many more.

In my work, the most significant legislation we use to assist individuals with disabilities is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This wide-reaching law, passed in 1990, protects people with disabilities from all forms of discrimination in everyday living – from voting rights to employment to parking spaces and public transportation. Under the ADA, employers are required to make reasonable accommodations in the workplace for individuals with disabilities. These may include flexible work schedules, assistive technologies or special equipment. An important amendment to the ADA was passed in 2008 strengthening and broadening the definition of disability to make it simpler for individuals to formally establish that they have a disability.

Individuals with disabilities received even more protections and benefits with the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010. The ACA was a significant regulatory overhaul and expansion of healthcare coverage which gave Americans with disabilities accessible, quality and affordable healthcare.

Consult State Laws For Disability Rights Information

While federal laws provide overarching protection of disability rights, state and local governments can also pass and enforce legislation to complement these federal laws. However, every state has its own point of view and approach for ensuring people with disabilities are afforded equal rights, opportunities and protections. To understand the laws in each state, it is best to consult your state government website or other online sources that recap policies, initiatives and resources, such as Bloomberg Law and Accessibility.com .

Facing the challenges of living with a disability or chronic illness can be trying. To help bring more clarity there are numerous nationwide programs, resources and support organizations that explain disability rights under long-established federal and state laws. It is vital for people to know why these historic laws exist: to protect the rights of Americans with disabilities. As more individuals understand the specifics and value of these major laws and programs, more individuals with disabilities will benefit from the increased awareness.

By Diane Winiarski, Contributor

© 2024 Forbes Media LLC. All Rights Reserved

This Forbes article was legally licensed through AdvisorStream.

Boulos Michael profile photo

Boulos Michael, CRPC®, AAMS®

Wealth Advisor; Managing Partner
Stewardship Wealth Management Solutions
Office : (714) 455-2955
Schedule a meeting