Three Things People Don't Know About Disability
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.
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?
Oberg, B. (2013, November 19). Three Things People Don't Know About Disability, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 16 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/borderline/2013/11/three-things-people-dont-know-about-disability