CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia leads the nation in the percentage of adults receiving government income assistance who have disabilities, according to U.S. Census figures.The Census Bureau report showed that 30.4 percent of the 46 million adults nationwide who received income-based government assistance in 2011 had a disability. In West Virginia, the rate is 41.7 percent.States along and immediately west of the Appalachians tended to have higher rates of disability among the adults receiving income-based assistance. The Southwest and states along the Eastern Seaboard tended to have lower rates of disability.Two-dozen states had disability rates well above the national average of 30.4 percent and 15 were well below that. Arizona had the lowest rate at 25.1 percent.The Census Bureau report defined disabilities as people having vision, hearing, cognitive, ambulatory, self-care or independent living difficulties.
The report also found that of those people with disabilities in West Virginia, 26.8 percent reported having severe difficulties walking or climbing stairs, compared with the national average of 18.2 percent."On average, people with disabilities have lower employment and earnings,'' said Census Bureau statistician Bernice Boursiquot, the report's co-author. "Therefore, understanding what assistance people with disabilities receive may help governments better coordinate and administer their programs.''The report released Tuesday showed that 326,563 West Virginia adults, or 17.7 percent of the state's population, received government assistance.Assistance, based on eligibility criteria set by the federal and state governments, is doled out in three areas: cash, services, goods or vouchers, or both.The Census Bureau said 57 percent of U.S.-disabled adults on government assistance received in-kind assistance only; 40.8 percent received both in-kind and cash assistance, and 2.2 percent received only cash assistance.