Greener Grass

Often I have heard comments about people on SSI, SSDI, or other forms of social welfare support that boil down to, “It must be nice to not have to work.” Lately I’ve been schooled in why that’s anything but the case. The greener grass is actually concrete covered with green paint. Or maybe it’s a green, slimy pit of quick sand.

Reading this entry, you are probably going to become bored and/or confused. Since this is simply a condensed version of my “greener grass,” you might want to give some thought as to whether or not it is a kind of green you wish to envy.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) made a mistake whereby they noted my bank accounts multiple times making it seem like I had more than the $2000 I’m allowed to have in assets. And, yes, I can’t have more than that or I lose my SSI and good health insurance.

I invested effort in resolving this to the tune of seven letters, about seven hours in the SSA waiting room, and hours organizing materials. It took that just to get someone to delete a few bank accounts from the system. It also cost me the $50.00 they garnered from my benefits while I took the six weeks to get them to correct their error.

Now to the second SSA problem. I have a life insurance policy that I recently discovered had a cash surrender value SSA counts as an asset meaning it is considered a part of the $2000.00 maximum I’m allowed to have. This meant I was over that maximum and had to spend about $1300.00 in less than thirty days and it could only be on certain types of purchases. It was a major pain in the neck, took hours to do, and required help from various friends to accomplish. Last week I discovered all that was unnecessary because I consider the life insurance policy to be for my burial expenses. So now my savings account is very small making me nervous and it didn’t have to be this way.

Then there’s my prescription drug coverage. I was told my antidepressant would no longer be covered in the name brand version. Since I have a bad reaction to the generic, I called my drug plan to ask some questions. I was told the 100mg and 200mg versions would be covered in name brand, but not the 150mg tablet I needed to constitute my 350mg dose. To me, it seemed like a no-brainer to get them to cover my dose as well.

I warned my doctor’s office about this in December and they chose to wait until I needed the medication. Now they are having trouble getting authorization. In trying to sort that out, I discovered I had been misinformed about 200mg and 100mg tablets being covered. *bangs head against wall*

In the meantime, I have a transitional override to get my meds. Sounds simple, but somehow the pharmacy who could do my insurance in December can no longer accomplish the same feat. The computer “rolls over” at the first of the year and has dropped a byte throwing a wrench into the works. I discovered this after waiting forty-five minutes at my pharmacy.

A couple of phone calls and an hour later unearthed the factoid eaten by the computer: my father is retired. Yes, it was that simple yet impossible to figure out.

Believe it or not, I actually have an easier situation than many because blind people are often protected in ways other disabled people do not enjoy. My grass might be a slimy, green pit of quick sand, but theirs is inhabited by leeches and jellyfish.

Worrying about money these days seems to be a universal, but there are degrees. Some are concerned about how to pay for their car, house, and vacation. Others fear not being able to make rent, eat out, or buy a friend a birthday gift. Still others worry about affording adequate health care and food at the same time.

Next time you think someone’s grass funded by social welfare is more lush and verdant than yours, consider what costs come with such luxuries. I guess if you love jumping through hoops and using a machete on red tape it will be right up your alley.

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About Jen

After acquiring a degree from Vassar College in psychology, I moved to Western Mass where I ran a peer mentoring network for disabled college students as well as activism and organizing around disability issues. I also conducted research on disabled women’s body image. An Upstate New York native, I eventually followed my heliotropic nature to the sun of Southern California. I divide my time between writing (disability fiction and essays) along with moderating San Diego Bisexual Forum which is one of the oldest groups of its kind in the country. In my off hours I can often be found in my neighborhood live music venue enjoying our local talent.

3 thoughts on “Greener Grass

  1. I think the friction comes down to “or I lose SSI.” Said to a TAB, that does carry all sorts connotations of “I don’t want to lose this trickle of money that I’m receiving.”

    Again with my schizophrenic neighbors, both receive SSI, and both work minimal hours for minimal pay. With them, however, they truly have become dependent on it, and have no drive or will to improve themselves.

    In my (layman) estimation, they function at a high enough level that if they wanted to, they could get to a point where it’s not needed, and they themselves have said that the more they make at a job, the less SSI they receive. They never consider the possibility of getting non-minimum wage, non part-time jobs, and show minimal ambition.

    Now they’ve never mentioned what medical insurance they’re on. If that’s part and parcel of it, then I can see why they have a legitimate reason to stay on. I don’t believe they’re capable of paying their living expenses and regular insurance/med prices.

    My inner feelings simply are that should a person be on SSI, there should be pressures to get them back to the point where they no longer require it. I acknowledge that it SHOULD be a permanent safety net for those who truly will need it indefinitely.

    And I’ve read your blog enough that a likely further objection/complaint is legitimately, why should someone on SSI have to explain to all the TABs whether or not one is driven to eventually leave SSI or whether or not there is a legitimate permanent need.

    It’s also kind of galling to me that like you, my neighbor has a $2000 limit on his assets, but no limit to his debt. I’m helping him resolve the latter.

  2. Steve,

    As usual, a thoughtful comment.

    Typically, Medicaid goes along with SSI. If you also happen to receive Social Security Disability, then you also have medicare. Medicaid will go away if you have more than $2000.00. Medicare is a different kettle of fish, but becomes more costly if you are not on SSI.

    The system itself leads to dependency. When you can’t acquire assets, you have no way to save up for things. When your family is not allowed to help you without it jepardizing benefits, that creates dependency.

    If your neighbors have no ambition, that’s a problem. Everyone should have something to reach for. People able to get off SSI and support themselves should receive help to do exactly that. Right now, that help doesn’t exist. Well, okay, there’s Vocational Rehabilitation, but don’t even get me started on that.

    Should people take responsibility for themselves and do what they can to support themselves? Definitely. Do we have a system that fosters that? No. Can you lose benefits that help you survive simply by following your dreams? Yes.

    Your neighbors sound like quite the characters.

  3. If a person has schizophrenia and don’t seem too sick, it doesn’t mean they are healthy enough to work. They might be doing well(now) in a stress free situation, and good for them! That is a great achievement for them to be able to cope so well out of the hospital But it doesn’t mean they can work. People make a lot of assumptions by walking into a situation in the middle but not seeing it from the beginning.

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