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Live large on Social Security Disability

I, for one, am completely fed up with the news stories that say you can “live large” on Social Security Disability (SSD). These reports claim you can make more money in a year in ‘free social service benefits’ than most people make working good paying full time jobs. I’m also fed up with reports like this one from 2013 in Forbes called “Fraud and Disability” that basically says everyone on SSD is committing fraud, draining the federal bank account, and is being a parasite on the country as a whole.  This article is written purely to place the blame on all the disabled, not the ones that actually commit fraud.

Medicare isn’t free, it is automatically deducted from SSD payments each month AND if you are married to someone that still works a decent paying job, YOU have to pay taxes on your own SSD benefits. Yes, I know for a fact this is true, I have to pay them every year. Not every disabled person is just out to game the system. And I can tell you from personal experience, you will not make it rich on Disability. You will be poor, permanently poor if you have a chronic condition like mine. One that even Social Security deems “Has No Hope of Improvement”.

Now imagine having only Social Security Disability (SSD) as an income. According to this article from Disability Secrets “How Much in Benefits?” in 2017 the average person gets $1,171 each month in SSD and automatically looses roughly $200 of that to Medicare.

Supplemental Medicare plans can currently cost anywhere from $200-$800 per month, depending on the coverage, because they are required to cover pre-existing conditions. This will go up if the Republicans and Trump remove the pre-existing conditions clause. I tried to find a graphic for this, but everyone just wants you to call for a quote. For this story we will split it at $400.

Now lets subtract co-pays for prescriptions. According to this article, the average copay for a script in 2017 is $12-$13 each. Prescription purchase price index. Assuming you have a script you have to take on a monthly basis, lets say for high blood pressure, that means you are paying $144-$156 per year, per script.

Most people that are disabled have a condition(s) that requires multiple monthly scripts for life. Lets use me for the example. I’m on the low end, according to my doctors, with only four scripts each month. One for severe nerve damage, one for a non-functioning thyroid, one for pain management, and one for controlling the symptoms caused by Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Using the $12, that is $48 per month, which we will use for our table.

That doesn’t include copays for doctor visits, which average $50 per visit. If you are in a Certified Pain Management Program, which you have to be to receive the pain meds, you are REQUIRED to see your PM doctor face-to-face at least once every three months. Some other conditions apply, by state, by clinic, by provider, etc. In my case, not only do I have to see my PM doctor face-to-face once every 3 months, I also have to see a therapist to be assessed on ‘if patient is showing signs of addiction or improper use of medication’.  Which she then has to report to my PM. So, there are two visits, every three months, guaranteed. My PM handles two of my medications, the PM and the nerve damage (non-narcotic) one. My neurologist handles the one for TBI and I have to check in with her twice a year, so there are two more guaranteed visits. My Primary Care doctor (PC) handles the non-functioning thyroid medication, I have to see him at least once a year for that. That is a MINIMUM of ELEVEN visits a year, required. At $50 per co-pay that is $550 per year. Which I have to budget for and therefore set back $46 each month to be sure I have them covered. That doesn’t even include the standard deductible and max ‘out of pocket’ expenses that Medicare and the supplemental plans require. For the sake of ease, we will leave that out for now.

You better hope like hell you don’t catch a bug or have a complication to your chronic condition that causes additional visits, procedures, surgeries, or hospital stays. All that costs extra.

So, here we go, lets do some math.

Benefit Amount
SSD Payment + $1,171
Medicare auto-decuction –  $   200
Medicare Supplemental Insurance –  $   400
Medication Co-Pays –  $     48
Budget reduction to cover office visit co-pays –  $     46
Total left    $   477

That leaves your SSD recipient with a total $477 per month with which to pay for everything else. Rent, Utilities, transportation, food, clothing, etc.

This is where you get into the territory that the Republicans love to distort.  They claim that because of this ‘low income’ you qualify for multiple additional welfare benefits. While it is true you may qualify for SOME of them, the Republicans and their talking heads on FoxNews, love to show you the max amount of benefit, for every single category, and then add them together as if you will receive all of them. It’s a really sly and underhanded way to distort the truth. Take the max amount POSSIBLE for every category POSSIBLE and report that as what you receive in benefits. It’s hogwash.

I’m here to tell you that this is NOT how it works. Most programs have and/or clauses. You can either get food assistance and utility assistance or housing assistance. Not all three. Or Housing assistance and transportation assistance (usually only for those with severe mobility issues and it still isn’t free, just reduced) but not food assistance. If you qualify for one, it automatically disqualifies you for some others. You have to pick and choose which one you most desperately need. Which is why so many disabled people live at home with aging parents or their own kids, because they can’t get housing assistance if they get food assistance, the parents/adult children are footing the housing bill. Yes, it is true they can receive some benefit for ‘taking care of’ you, it’s only off their Income Taxes and it isn’t much.

There are ways to play the system, yes. There are always going to be. You cannot make a foolproof system. There are people out there that will always look for the way to do things differently. Like hackers trying to steal your bank account info. Why do they do it? For every 1,000 they attempt, they may get 1. The answer is, they just will. Gamers are going to game, no matter what system you put in front of them. No matter how good you are at gaming, you are never going to make a very comfortable living being on Social Security Disability, with or without other forms of welfare. At best you will hit the top end of ‘poor’ on the governments index.

But that’s just my opinion.


Perspectives 1

Recently my husband and I had to travel out of town for me to see medical specialists that are not available at home. While there we lunched at one of our favorite restaurants. It’s a real treat for us because I do not travel well any longer and because it’s an extra expense. But it was close to his birthday, so we called it a birthday treat. Honestly, for the cost, it is much better and higher quality food and not much more expensive than eating at a fast food place. Tastes a lot better too.

The day started with a Swallow Study. I cannot swallow properly now partially due to my genetic defect, EDS, and partially due to the titanium plate holding my spine together from C5-C6-C7. It was less than enjoyable, but over quickly. My swallowing problems lead me to eat certain foods because just swallowing something like a well-chewed piece of steak is a nightmare. I was really looking forward to this lunch!

We ran an errand then wandered over to enjoy a leisurely lunch before having to be back over at the hospital to see a doctor that specializes in TMJ. If you don’t know what TMJ is, you are lucky. Mine is not the typical TMJ case because mine is caused by tendons being far too loose. My jaw is, as the doctor later described it, “extremely hypermobile”. Unfortunately, he also informed us that because of EDS, there was nothing to be done to help prevent or repair the issue. It’s highly likely that in a few years I will be unable to chew on the right side of my mouth, the left side shortly thereafter. In effect, my ability to chew solid or even semi-solid food is disappearing quickly. And there is nothing I can do about it. Just another thing taken away by EDS. So this lunch is not just ‘another lunch’ to me, it’s a treat and a treat that I’m quickly running out of the opportunity to enjoy.

We sat down and ordered our lunch in the small dining area. It’s a great place and usually we love the atmosphere. This time, just beside the door at a table for two, were two men. Once of which was a very loud and very vocal Trump supporter. At some point, every single person in the room gave him the ‘shut up and let us enjoy our lunch’ look, which he failed completely to give a damn about. Even a guy wearing a Trump hat was giving him the stink eye. This is lunch, not stand up comedy. But since he insisted, and I have hearing that just won’t quit, I had to sit and listen to his entire walk through the dislogic of being a Trump supporter. Oh, and let’s not fail to mention he was coughing hard, loudly, without ever once covering his mouth the entire time. My compromised immune system thanks you! Not.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to list a few of his statements and why most made me shake my head with sadness.


“Blacks and girls get college handed to them on a silver plate, just because I’m a white guy, or my kid is a white guy, we can’t get any help with college. It’s NOT fair. What have they done to deserve special treatment? Being born poor or with a vagina does not make you better than a white guy.”


Actually, being born a white guy’ makes YOU the special one. You are more likely to get a job, even while still in high school, just because you are a white guy. You are more likely to be paid more for the same job and you are more likely to be accepted to a better college because you are a ‘white guy’. Even if your grades do not justify it. I’m sorry, but that is the truth of it. You START life on a higher rung of the ladder just because you were born a ‘white guy’. This is called ‘privilege’. You didn’t ask for it but that doesn’t change the fact that you have it.

College is not ‘handed to them on a silver plate’. That’s an uninformed argument. We have three kids that have done higher education. One ‘white guy’ and two ‘girls’. None were handed anything on a silver plate. In fact, our youngest entered the military just to qualify for the GI bill and get her college paid for so she wouldn’t be starting at a deficit. She ended up being injured in service after doing a tour and serving in the Haiti earthquake disaster. She can never again do the job she loved because of that injury. We have two that are finishing their PhD’s and the youngest is working on her masters in a new field. They’ve done it with some scholarships, but mostly just by working their rear-ends off and accumulating student loans. I know a number of ‘blacks’ that have done college as well, to my knowledge not a single one of them had it handed to them ‘on a silver plate’.  They have student loans just like my kids.  In a point of fact, the ONLY person I’ve ever known to get into a special ‘paid for’ program in college was a…. ‘White guy’. Unless you want to talk athletics and that’s a whole other department. 

No, being born ‘poor’ doesn’t make someone better. I don’t think I have ever heard someone poor say that it did. The effort to help the poorest of the poor to obtain education applies to ALL the poor, black or white, male or female. In fact, if you are a really poor white guy, your are STILL more likely to win scholarships and internships. So, there you go, that white guy thing is special again, even when poor. The object of helping these people obtain a higher education is really pretty simple. People who obtain higher educations normally get a higher paying job and lift themselves, and sometimes extended family, out of poverty. Ironic, because then they no longer qualify for those helpful programs. WHICH IS THE POINT. Helping a little, in the beginning, means less help is likely to be needed later in life.  This has been proven, via scientific research, to be true even as early as the age of ONE.  Children who have preschools or even just services that help teach parents how to teach their children in the preschool years are half as likely to end up needing services as adults.

From The Hechinger Report on Oklahoma’s innovative approach: “Many researchers have used Georgetown’s Tulsa data to run analyses and reports on the effectiveness of the program. Gormley and his colleagues found that third grade reading scores for children who attended the program after 2006 have risen. Phillips and her colleagues found that preschool grads’ attentiveness in class had increased and timidity had decreased by a significant amount. And economists, led by Timothy J. Bartik of the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, a think tank, have even predicted Tulsa preschool grads will earn higher salaries based on their elementary school test scores, which have previously been linked to earnings.”

And Finland is kicking America’s butt in the childhood education department. As reported in this article in The Smithsonian Magazine “Why Are Finland’s Schools Successful?”  “It’s almost unheard of for a child to show up hungry or homeless. Finland provides three years of maternity leave and subsidized day care to parents, and preschool for all 5-year-olds, where the emphasis is on play and socializing. In addition, the state subsidizes parents, paying them around 150 euros per month for every child until he or she turns 17. Ninety-seven percent of 6-year-olds attend public preschool, where children begin some academics. Schools provide food, medical care, counseling and taxi service if needed. Stu­dent health care is free.

“Ninety-three percent of Finns graduate from academic or vocational high schools, 17.5 percentage points higher than the United States, and 66 percent go on to higher education, the highest rate in the European Union. Yet Finland spends about 30 percent less per student than the United States.”


The concept isn’t difficult. It’s not really much different than the advertising you see for retirement accounts. You start an investment with a small amount of money when you are young and if the economy holds and with some luck, by the time you retire you have a nest egg. In this case, the nest egg is an actual human being. You invest a little when they are young, to help them get a good start in life and with a little luck that investment means that down the line they won’t need further services. It’s a proven fact, supported by data.  You respect data about your investments, from college educated financial advisors. Why will you not accept the data from a college educated professor that has dedicated his life to finding out if the facts bear out?