Poverty And Anxiety:

CW: Assisted Suicide

I receive Supplemental Security Income due to my disability. My monthly check is less than $900. Living in poverty is frustrating. It also causes my anxiety to become worse. Every month I wonder if I’ll be able to pay all of my bills. I also can’t have more than $2,000 in my name. I pay $500 a month for rent. I wouldn’t be able to afford to live independently without my roommate’s help. I couldn’t afford toilet paper, toothpaste, and other necessities on my own.

Affordable housing is limited in my area, and has long waiting lists. Accessible, affordable housing is even more difficult to find. When I moved out in 2020, there were no accessible apartments available for rent in my hometown. Where are people on disability supposed to live if there’s no accessible, affordable housing?

On social media it is not uncommon to see people on disability who create wishlists and fundraisers to help them afford their bills. People don’t want the latest clothes or new cars. These wishlists are filled with toiletries, food, and pet supplies. We shouldn’t live in a world where people can’t afford food and other necessities.

Unfortunately, this is not just a problem in the United States. In Canada, people who rely on Ontario’s Disability Support Program (ODSP) face the same problem. The maximum amount of ODSP benefits for a single person is $1,169 per month or $14,028 annually. That is nearly 30% below the provincial poverty level, which is around $20,000. In certain cities, the discrepancy is much more obvious. In Toronto, monthly payments fall 47.5% short of the poverty threshold.

In some cases, forced poverty does much more than cause anxiety. It can cause people to end their lives. In Toronto, after failing to find accessible, safe housing, a woman has chosen to end her life with the assistance of a physician. She is desperate to find a safe place to live.

Her sole source of income, however, is the Ontario Disability Support Program. Her budget for the month is $1,169 plus an additional $50 for a special diet. She is unable to locate safe, affordable, housing. It shouldn’t be easier for disabled people to die than to live.

Disabled people around the world deserve a livable income. We still fight for equality everyday, and we shouldn’t struggle to survive. Being on disability is not fun. Imagine if you had to live off $871 a month. It’s not easy, and there are millions of Americans who don’t have any other choice.


Favaro, Avis. “Woman with Disabilities Nears Medically Assisted Death after Futile Bid for Affordable Housing.” CTVNews, CTV News, 30 Apr. 2022, https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/woman-with-disabilities-nears-medically-assisted-death-after-futile-bid-for-affordable-housing-1.5882202.

McNaughton, Graeme. “Guelph Disability Advocates Say Council Can Do More than Advocate for Higher ODSP Rates.” Thestar.com, Toronto Star, 4 July 2022, https://www.thestar.com/local-guelph/news/council/2022/07/04/guelph-disability-advocates-say-council-can-do-more-than-advocate-for-higher-odsp-rates.html.


  1. Let’s not forget that inflation is currently high as well, and that the $2,000 asset limits for SSI and aged/blind/disabled (ABD) Medicaid are not indexed to inflation. To add insult to injury, that limit has not changed since January 1989, and the cost of emergency expenses have increased to reflect the current real value of the dollar, just as everything else has increased (and you cannot demand to pay 1989 prices just because you’re on SSI or ABD Medicaid), so these limits make no logical sense when paired with an understanding of basic economics. In June 2022, the limit would have been almost $4900 if it had been appropriately indexed to inflation (based on Consumer Price Index data); many costs have exceeded the rate of inflation, however. That’s another strike against frozen asset limits defined in nominal terms.

    States, however, do have the option of defining their own eligibility criteria for ABD Medicaid, and not relying on SSI’s criteria. California is currently in the process of eliminating the asset limit altogether (they’ve drastically increased the limit already, and it should be gone in 2024), and Arizona has eliminated the limit, with the important caveat that those receiving HCBS and/or long-term care services are still subjected to the $2000 limit. Sadly, this means many disabled people in Arizona are still subject to outdated criteria, although Arizona’s policy does give hope that changes are possible even in red states. It might not even require legislation where the eligibility criteria are defined in regulation; I believe that in my home state of Texas, the Texas HHSC Executive Council has the power to affect such a change in the Texas Administrative Code for Texas ABD Medicaid. On the other hand, passing actual laws would have better “staying power” than regulations that could be changed at a whim. Of course, Texas is ideologically opposed to Medicaid as things stand now (HCBS funding is badly needed here, as we have decades-long waitlists for HCBS waivers in TX), which stings even more with the knowledge that we have a physically-disabled governor, Greg Abbott, who might have ended up in the system had his life story proceeded just a little differently.

    In the case of ODSP in Ontario, the monthly benefit amounts also seem to be frozen and do not appear to increase to reflect inflation. In other words, poverty among the disabled is getting worse because of these outdated limits (and benefit amounts for ODSP) based on nominal criteria without regard to the real value of money. SSI benefit amounts are also far too low, and COLA does not directly reflect inflation either (the COLA methodology is also used by Social Security and SSDI).

    This doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of outdated, non-indexed eligibility criteria and funding levels found across social safety net programs. Federal TANF block grants have not increased since 1996, whereas state population increases and inflation have continued.

    Inflation is killing the social safety net, and not enough lawmakers are taking action to pass legislation that would allow the safety net to adapt to inflation. Future legislation needs to address the fact that lawmakers often end up neglecting safety net programs for decades, by including inflation-indexing mechanisms on all nominal monetary amounts defined for both eligibility criteria and funding levels.

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