In the last few generations, the USA has led the world in increasing acceptance and accessibility for people with disabilities, both physical and intellectual.
In fact, thanks to USA disability services, the life expectancy for people with conditions like Down Syndrome has nearly doubled in the last 30 years. My cousin had Down Syndrome.
Here are some of the programs that help build a safety net in America for those who need assistance due to disabilities.
In addition to providing deferred funds to retired seniors through taxes, the U.S. Office of Social Security also facilitates the release of funds to people who need to receive disability compensation, such as people who have been injured to the point that they are no longer able to work, or victims of strokes or severe heart attacks.
Medicare is another wide-ranging government program that was established in the mid-20th century. Most people associate it with the provision of medical insurance for seniors over the age of 65. In addition to this essential service, it also provides insurance for people with disabilities, regardless of age. Those that qualify must apply and wait for approval. But once approved, they can receive primary medical insurance if they or their parents are not otherwise uninsured.
If they already have primary insurance, Medicare acts as secondary insurance, which generally covers much higher percentages of prescriptions and other medical expenses, and in many cases, eliminates co-pays. Medicare insurance is subject to annual renewal, and periodic visits and evaluations from state professionals. Medicare is sometimes confused with Medicaid, which provides insurance assistance to low-income individuals.
Respite and Waiver Programs
In addition to medical insurance, state Medicare providers may also provide waiver programs that extend additional resources to qualifying individuals. These can provide respite care for families of people with disabilities. This means that Medicare will pay a designated and vetted person an hourly wage to care for a person with disabilities up to a certain amount of time per month, in an off-site location to give families a break from the additional care they provide. Waiver programs can also provide in-home visits to people with disabilities and other services if necessary. These also require applications, paperwork, and annual reviews.
It is encouraging to see that with these and other initiatives, we have moved towards a more inclusive society, taking care of those among us with the most need. The US government and the private sector have both taken up this mantle to champion people with disabilities. But we still have so far to go.