Three Things People Don't Know About Disability

November 19, 2013 Becky Oberg

I was raised Christian right-wing conservative, complete with the anti-government aid viewpoint—I was taught this was socialism, which every good American knew meant “communism,” which every good American knew was evil, anti-Christian and would enslave us all. I also sincerely believed that people on government aid should just get a job and stop mooching off the taxpayers.

My attitude has since changed, largely because I've learned three things people don't know about Social Security disability.

There is no concrete standard of disability.

Mention you’re on disability, and you’ll get a bad reaction. Here are 3 things I’ve learned people don’t know about Social Security disability. Check this out.My attitude first started to shift my sophomore year at Baylor University. The City of Waco hired one of my classes to find out why south Waco was poor. That's how I met people genuinely struggling to make ends meet. While there were some con artists, there were also people who were suffering horribly. The story that stands out the most in my mind was the story of Junior.

Junior suffered from severe herniated disks. Doctor One, who worked at a clinic for low-income individuals, did not want to put him on disability. When Doctor One was replaced by Doctor Two, she was amazed he wasn’t on it. He was eventually ruled disabled, and told that made him ineligible for Medicaid for one year. As a result, he was uninsured. As a result, he could not get the medical treatment he needed. He literally prayed to die and even asked people at a local church to help him kill himself.

Five years and a cross-country move later, I applied for disability after learning I met the criteria. My doctor warned me that 95 percent of all Indiana applications are rejected the first time and 90 percent were rejected the second time. Nationwide, only 40 percent of applications are accepted. The first time I was denied because while my disability interfered with my life, it did not render me unable to work. The second time I was approved, probably only because the Army ruled me disabled.

Disability does not guarantee Medicare and Medicaid.

When I was first ruled disabled, I lost my insurance and could not get new insurance due to a pre-existing condition. So this left me uninsured as Indiana does not automatically sign up a person on disability for Medicaid. I had more than $1,500 in assets, so I did not qualify for Medicaid. A lawyer recommended I wipe out my life savings to meet criteria. After I was hospitalized without insurance, my life savings were wiped out, which qualified me for Medicaid.

Medicaid varies by state, while Medicare is run by the federal government. At the time I went on disability, people on disability had to wait two years to go on Medicare. The reason--most people die during this two-year period.

I don't have to worry about losing Medicare as long as I'm on disability. But even if I'm considered disabled, Medicaid is under no obligation to cover me if I have too much. As my father, a meat-and-potatoes conservative, said "It's perpetuating. You have a $400 car and it doesn't work, so you can't get a job. And you can't get a better car because you'll lose your benefits!"

Maximum disability benefits are less than a full-time minimum wage job.

We've all heard that minimum wage is not enough to live on, and as a result some are pushing for a living wage law. But what many people don't know is that a full-time minimum wage earner receives more money per month than the person with the maximum benefits, which at present is $900. Where are our advocates?

A Facebook friend of mine griped about disability and said "It's no longer if you can work, but if you feel like working." She obviously didn't know the three things I've pointed out here. Disability is not the equivalent of winning the lottery and never having to work again. It's a guarantee that you'll live in poverty.

What myths about disability have you encountered?

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APA Reference
Oberg, B. (2013, November 19). Three Things People Don't Know About Disability, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 25 from

Author: Becky Oberg

patricia Coviello
November, 25 2018 at 1:37 pm

I need help for my adult son who is currently in San Francisco.

How to Afford Mental Health Treatment - HealthyPlace
March, 29 2017 at 6:00 pm

[…] my life savings after I was hospitalized for 10 days without insurance. And when I finally went on Medicare for disability, I found I couldn’t afford the copay. This lead to a vicious cycle–my mental health […]

October, 29 2014 at 12:58 pm

You are so right Becky! Disability is a guarantee you will live in poverty. Both my husband and myself are on SSDI and after our mortgage payment, we have just a couple of hundred dollars to survive on. We can't afford car insurance, hardly qualify for food stamp benefits. We have no choice as to drive when we have to, and because we can't afford tires, we are just about driving on rims..but there is no need to worry too much about that because if we get pulled over, we will lose the car anyway. It kills me when people think that you have it easy if you're on disability. Not only do you live in real pain on a daily basis, you have to worry constantly about being able to keep your home, pay for utilities. I always worry that something extra will come up in an emergency because we just don't have anything left. I have friends who have spent the last 2 years trying everything they can to get approved for disability, when both of them really aren't disabled. Why would anybody want to give up a life of actually earning a decent paycheck to barely survive on government benefits? I wish I had the ability to earn decent money instead of a life of being in a wheelchair and running out of money after I pay my bills, the 1st week of the month and still having 3 more weeks until your next check and starting the process all over again. It's not an easy life.

dean tiernan
November, 22 2013 at 5:16 pm

You state disability is 900. I have ssdi which is 50% more than that.

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