I read Justin Smith‘s blog post about affording his apartment on SSI. For many disabled and older adults, this small monthly payment is their only income. Like Justin, I also receive Supplemental Security Income. I am one of the approximately eight million SSI beneficiaries in the United States. Unfortunately, SSI has an asset cap of $2,000 for a single person and $3,000 for a married couple. SSI often is spent on rent or utilities, which leaves very little money left over, and you cannot save money.
My Medicaid coverage is attached to my SSI benefits as well. My PCA services, which allow me to remain in my community, are paid for by Medicaid. My PCAs would be unaffordable without Medicaid, costing over $50,000 per year. I’d go bankrupt just trying to stay alive.
I also have some money put away in an ABLE account for expenses related to my disability. However, this is not a significant amount of money, and I like to have money put away for emergencies such as unexpected bills.
For example, last December, I had a toothache. I decided to go to the dentist. About a month later, I received a bill for this visit. I had enough money to be able to pay this bill. I was thankful that I didn’t have to ask my parents to pay this bill. While I know my parents would help me pay my bills if I needed help, I am proud to pay most of my bills on my own. This year I also have my phone bill separate from my mom’s. It is a goal of mine this year to pay more of my own bills.
I am fortunate enough to share expenses with my roommate, who is my PCA. We split the rent, which gives me a little money left over at the end of the month. I wouldn’t be able to afford the apartment on my own. The apartment was also the cheapest one available at the time as well, and I am allowed to make any accommodations for my CP.
SSI needs to be increased significantly to keep up with the cost of living. In addition to expenses such as groceries and utilities, those with disabilities often have other expenses. Wheelchair-accessible vans, prescriptions, bath and shower chairs, and other equipment and services, such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy, are frequently required by disabled people. Some of these expenses are covered by health insurance, but not always.
According to the National Disability Institute, researchers estimate that households containing an adult with a disability require, on average, 28 percent more income (or an additional $17,690 a year for a family at the median income level) to obtain the same standard of living as a comparable household without a member with a disability.
People with disabilities should be able to save money in the same way that everyone else does. One approach to this is to eliminate asset limits associated with programs like Medicaid and SSI. The government should not make it so difficult for disabled people to become financially self-sufficient.
Goodman, Nanette, et al. “The Extra Costs of Living with a Disability in the U.S. — Resetting the Policy Table.” National Disability Institute, National Disability Institute, Oct. 2020, http://www.nationaldisabilityinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/extra-costs-living-with-disability-brief.pdf.
“Number of Recipients, 1974–2020.” Social Security Administration, Social Security Administration, 1 Dec. 2020, https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/chartbooks/fast_facts/2021/fast_facts21.html.