Millions of disabled workers in the United States rely on disability payments (Social Security Disability, SSI or both). About 6 percent of the nation’s working-age population receives disability payments. Some states have more than 10 percent on disability. In New Jersey, that figure is just 3.8 percent. What is the explanation for this disparity?
Lack of education. Low rates of high school completion are linked with high rates of disability receipt. This explains why so many people in the Appalachia region and the deep South are on disability. Those with more education are better able to adapt to a wider range of work.
Age. Nearly 70 percent of beneficiaries are age 50 or older; nearly one in three are over 60. The median age in New England and Appalachia is higher than the national average. Therefore, they have high rates of disability.
Native-born population. Contrary to popular belief, immigrants are far less likely to get disability checks than native-born individuals. New Jersey, along with New York, Florida and Texas have large foreign-born populations and lower percentages of disability recipients.
Industry versus service-oriented. In states whose economies rely on manufacturing, mining and forestry, there are larger percentages of disabled persons than places like New Jersey which have a service-oriented economy. Therefore, we see more persons on disability in the industrial Midwest as well as the South and Appalachia.
Disability and debt often go hand in hand unfortunately. Those who are sick and out of work will face a pile of bills, collection phone calls, and threatening letters. I sat down with attorney Barbara Snavely to discuss how bankruptcy may help my clients.
There are two types of bankruptcies for individuals, Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. A Chapter 7 works best for those who:
- have lots of unsecured debt (for example, credit cards, utility bills, unsecured personal loans);
- do not own much property;
- do not have much income. The maximum income for an individual is approximately $60,000 per year; for a family of four, it’s around $100,000.
In a Chapter 7, a trustee who is appointed by the court gathers and sells your non-exempt property. The proceeds from the sale are used to pay your creditors according to the priority of the claims.
A Chapter 13 is a good option for those who:
- owe debt that is the result of a temporary financial setback;
- own lots of property, such as houses, land, cars, that you want to
- have steady, regular income with which to make payments to a trustee;
- are behind in rent, mortgage or car payments.
A Chapter 13 works to consolidate, order and, in some cases, reduce your debts. Then, instead of juggling your bills and creditors, you will make one monthly payment (except for home mortgage and car payment loans) to your court-appointed trustee who will handle your creditors. No more calls from creditors!
Once your bankruptcy case is filed with the court, your creditors cannot collect on your debts because of what is call and “automatic stay.”
Social Security Disability payments are protected in bankruptcy in most cases. Since SSI payments are intended to provide basic living expenses, they may never be taken in a bankruptcy.
The prospect of filing bankruptcy can be frightening. Just talking to a bankruptcy attorney does not necessarily mean you have made a decision. It can just be part of an information-gathering process. Don’t wait until your circumstances are desperate and you only have days in which to stop foreclosure, vehicle repossession or other collection actions. Consultations are usually free.
This is a simplified overview of the options. There are numerous guidelines for each type of bankruptcy. Get professional advice from an attorney who concentrates in the area of bankruptcy. Barbara Snavely is an associate in the Law Office of Joseph Rogers in Turnersville. She can be reached at (856) 228-7964.
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I just saw a commercial for “The Michael J. Fox Show” which is part of the new fall line- up on NBC. Fox plays Mike Henry, a news anchor who had left his career to focus on his newly diagnosed Parkinson’s disease. The comedy series’ premise is that Mike decides to return to work and must now juggle career and family along with his illness.
In real life, Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1991 but did not go public with it until 1999. He left “Spin City” in 2000 to spend more time with his family. Fox has become an activist for research towards finding a cure for his disease.
I’ll be interested to see how the new show will portray life with a chronic illness. How will they weave disability jokes among the usual sit-com gags? Experts say that humor is good for the body and spirit, so why not?
Our own governor, Chris Christie, will have a cameo in one of the show’s fall episodes. I’ll leave that topic to some other blogger.
The “Michael J. For Show” will premier on September 26 at 9 PM on NBC.