Why Are Disabled People Forced into Poverty?

Last month, I received a letter from the Social Security Administration. For many disabled people mail from the Social Security Administration can be nerve wracking. The letter informed me of an upcoming phone call.

I’ve been receiving SSI since 2016 due to Cerebral Palsy. Applying for and receiving benefits can be a laborious process. Around 65% of all Social Security Administration disability claims are denied on the first application. The Social Security Administration recorded its all-time-high average wait of more than six months, or 198 days, for an initial disability decision last year. Over the past ten years, its length has nearly tripled.

The redetermination process happens every few years to ensure that I am still eligible for SSI. Many things can impact someone’s eligibility. Some of these include work, marital status, and living arrangements. In many states, Medicaid coverage is linked to SSI, which can result in loss of coverage if you are deemed ineligible.The redetermination was successful. The Social Security Administration asked me about assets, living expenses, and marital status. I was relieved.

Yesterday, I received another letter from the Social Security Administration. I was confused. This letter informed me that they were discontinuing my SSI. The reason? I had $2,034 in my checking account because I hadn’t paid my rent yet.

I went online to file an appeal. Losing SSI would mean that I would probably have to move back in with my family. My whole life, I have always felt like a burden to my family, and I wouldn’t want to be another mouth for them to feed, and take care of. They already spent 18 years devoting their lives to me when I was a child.

I could also lose my Medicaid coverage if the appeal is unsuccessful. This would be catastrophic. Medicaid is the only insurance that covers home and community-based services, which include my PCA services. PCA services allow me to live in my community rather than in an institutional setting.

SSI beneficiaries are currently limited to having no more than $2,000 in assets at any given moment to continue receiving monthly payments. Under regulations that haven’t changed since the 1980s, married couples are limited to $3,000.

Disability benefits are not a livable income for anyone. It’s no surprise that, according to a 2015 NPR article, persons with disabilities are twice as likely as their nondisabled counterparts to live in poverty.

Disabled people should be able to save money just like everyone else. One way to accomplish this is to eliminate the asset limits associated with programs such as Medicaid and SSI. The government shouldn’t make it so difficult for individuals with disabilities to become financially independent.


Altiraifi, Azza. “A Deadly Poverty Trap: Asset Limits in the Time of the Coronavirus.” Center for American Progress, Center for American Progress, 7 Apr. 2020, https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/disability/news/2020/04/07/482736/deadly-poverty-trap-asset-limits-time-coronavirus/.

Fessler, Pam. “Why Disability and Poverty Still Go Hand in Hand 25 Years After Landmark Law.” NPR, NPR, 23 July 2015, http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/07/23/424990474/why-disability-and-poverty-still-go-hand-in-hand-25-years-after-landmark-law.

Konish, Lorie. “As Social Security Disability Application Wait Times Hit Record High, Experts Say It’s a Sign the Agency Needs More Funding.” CNBC, CNBC, 16 Sept. 2022, https://www.cnbc.com/amp/2022/09/16/long-social-security-service-waits-signal-need-for-more-funds.html.

Trudeau, Joyce. “Does Social Security Disability Deny Everyone the First Time They Apply?” Disability Secrets, Nolo, 21 Jan. 2022, https://www.disabilitysecrets.com/does-social-security-deny-you-the-first-time-you-apply-for-disability.html.

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