What I Wish People Knew About Disability Benefits:

For many disabled and older adults, they rely on SSI, SSDI, or a combination of the two to pay for their monthly expenses. For many of them, this small monthly payment is their only income. I am one of the approximately eight million SSI beneficiaries in the United States. People have told me that I’m lucky to receive SSI benefits.

Though I enjoy my life and am grateful for SSI payments, I would not consider myself fortunate — at least not compared to non-disabled individuals who can work full-time. I would much rather work than rely on a monthly SSI check. It is difficult to live off less than $900 a month.

There also tends to be a misconception about those who receive disability benefits. People often seem to think that we are lazy and just don’t want to work. I have Cerebral Palsy and would love to be able to work. I’ve been looking for a job since 2019. I’ve filled out hundreds of job applications since then. Employers don’t even offer me an interview once they find out that I’m disabled. This is frustrating and makes me very sad. I couldn’t even get a job working at McDonald’s or the movie theater. It’s hard to see high school students be able to work. When my younger sister worked part-time at McDonald’s, I felt jealous even though I should have been happy for her.

My SSI benefits are less than the FPL for one person in 2022. This means that I have to live off less than $1,133 a month. If I didn’t share expenses with my roommate, I wouldn’t be able to live independently. We rent our apartment for $1,000 a month. I wouldn’t be able to afford it by myself.

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. Although I also have money set aside in an ABLE account for disability-related expenses. However, this is a limited amount of money, and I like to have money set aside in case of an emergency, such as an unexpected bill.

My SSI benefits and Medicaid coverage are tied together. Medicaid pays for my personal care assistant services, which allow me to be in my home. Without Medicaid, my PCAs, which cost over $50,000 a year, would be unaffordable. I would go bankrupt trying to stay alive. I have to remain disabled by the Social Security Administration’s standards in order to keep Medicaid.

While I am grateful that SSI exists, I wish people would understand that I want to work. I am perfectly capable of working even though I have Cerebral Palsy. More employers need to understand that those with disabilities can be valuable employees. If societal attitudes don’t change, we can’t expect more people with disabilities to be able to get jobs.


Cobb, Daniel. “2022 Federal Poverty Guidelines / Federal Poverty Levels.” Payment Options & Financial Assistance for Senior Care, PayingforSeniorCare.com, 28 Feb. 2022, https://www.payingforseniorcare.com/federal-poverty-level.

“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.

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