Research on Employment Supports for People with Disabilities: Summary of the Focus Group Findings. Public Income Support


Public income support programs supplement income through direct cash payments. Several of the programs described below are designed to insure workers against a loss of income due to a disabling physical or mental health condition. Other programs are not designed specifically for people with disabilities; however, a large percentage of individuals who receive program benefits have disabilities or have a child with a disability so we include them here.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Under the Federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Program, persons age 65 years and older, or those who are blind or disabled (including children), receive maintenance payments and supportive services, including emergency assistance and payment for burial. The services are administered by county welfare agencies. For eligible individuals, a state supplement is provided, increasing the net countable income up to the state standard for the respective living arrangement.

The state of Washington supplements the federal benefit level with state funds, known as the SSI state supplement. Persons deemed eligible for SSI receive cash assistance based on the combined federal and state supplement benefit levels, minus countable income. Exhibit 4 shows the federal, state and combined benefit levels for King and Pierce County, the locations of Seattle and Tacoma, respectively.93

Exhibit 4. SSI Benefit Levels, King and Pierce Counties
  Federal Benefit Level State Supplemental
Benefit Level
Combined Federal/
State Benefit Level
Individual $500.00 $26.00 $526.00
Individual + One $750.00 $21.00 $771.00
Couple, both Eligible $751.00 $21.00 $772.00
Couple w/One Essential Person $751.00 $21.00 $772.00
Couple + One $751.00 $21.00 $772.00
Coupling including Ineligible Spouse $500.00 $167.20 $667.20

During fiscal year 1998, the SSI program served 109,321 individuals94 in the state of Washington. The state's fiscal year 1998 grant total was $397,385,000.

Social Security Disability Insurance (DI). The DI program provides cash payments to individuals with work histories who have a medically determined disability expected to last at least 12 months or result in death, and who are unable to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA). SGA is currently defined as the equivalent of working with earnings above $740 a month.95 The payment amount for a worker is based on his or her lifetime average earnings covered by Social Security. DI benefits replace a portion of the worker's prior earnings. DI beneficiaries with earnings above the SGA level are subject to a loss of their DI cash benefits, and after an extended period of work activity above the SGA level, a loss of the Medicare eligibility.96

Temporary Disability Insurance.97 Under the state's Industrial Insurance Act, the Washington State Fund provides no-fault accident and disability coverage for nearly all workers. This insurance is designed to cover medical expenses and to partially compensate for lost wages while a worker recovers from his or her injuries. Industrial insurance benefits are provided by the Washington State Fund, administered by the Department of Labor and Industries. Coverage by the Washington State Fund includes an entitlement to medical coverage and other services necessary for the treatment of workplace injuries or occupational diseases. If the claim is accepted by the Department of Labor and Industries, all doctor, hospital, surgical, and related costs for treatment will be paid.

Permanent Partial Disability.98 If an injury or occupational disease causes permanent loss of bodily function, the claimant is paid a permanent disability award. The amount received for any physical loss is established by the Legislature and does not include compensation for pain and suffering.

Workers' Compensation. The director of the Division of Worker's Compensation is responsible for the administration of worker's compensation. An employee or their dependents are eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits for an injury or death arising out of and in the course of employment. The employer or their insurance carrier pays for necessary and reasonable medical treatment, loss of wages during the period of rehabilitation and benefits for permanent disability. The Division of Workers' Compensation provides an impartial forum to mediate and adjudicate disputes when parties are unable to amiably resolve their differences over entitlement to workers' compensation benefits. Division's judicial and administrative staff executes this function.99

Benefits are typically terminated when the worker is authorized the return to work or if the individual has reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). Once the worker has reached MMI, additional treatment will no longer improve the medical condition of the injured worker. In some cases, the worker may be left with either partial permanent injuries or total permanent injuries.

Department of Veterans Affairs Programs. Disability compensation is available to veterans who are discharged honorably and who have experienced or aggravated a disabling injury or disease during active military service. Veterans who have non-service related disabilities, or who are age 65 or older, are also eligible to receive a veteran's pension. Veteran's disability compensation is paid regardless of work activity.100 Veterans' services available in the state of Washington include federal and state benefits and entitlements for the following:

  • Service connected disability
  • Compensation and pension.
  • Educational Benefits
  • Insurance
  • Vocational Rehabilitation
  • VA Home Loans
  • Death Compensation
  • Insurance
  • Transition to Civilian Life