On Mental Illness: Dealing with SSI

By Jack Bragen
Monday December 13, 2010 - 07:09:00 PM

My wife’s recent work attempt and possibly my published writing apparently attracted the attention of those at the social security administration.  

We received a notice that within two days we had an appointment to be interviewed at the Walnut Creek office. The person who interviewed us was polite but devoid of any emotional expression of any kind. Prior to the worker meeting with us, we had waited about two hours in their crowded, noisy, uncomfortable waiting room. Apparently, the intent was to soften us up before the meeting.  

The worker stated that the interview was being done under penalty of perjury. I didn’t lie or distort facts during this interview. The intent of the examination was to find us ineligible for SSI.  

At the conclusion of this interview, the worker insisted that there are work incentives for disabled people under Social Security. At the time, my wife and I were so intimidated by the interview that we didn’t dare argue the point. 

Now, I would like to dispel the myth promulgated by social security that there are work incentives for disabled people. In fact, if you collect SSI, you are accepting what could be a life sentence to poverty. Social Security’s rules are there to enforce this poverty.  

When my wife got a part time job (which right now is all she can handle due to being disabled) the first thing that happened was that our SSI was lowered by an amount that was nearly half of her gross wages. Soon after, section 8 housing increased our rent with calculations that were based on our total income that we had before our SSI was cut. This is because the interview at Section 8 took place shortly after she started work.  

The ensuing rent increase nullified an additional third or more of my wife’s earnings at her job. If you then count union dues, and state and federal income taxes, all deducted from my wife’s check, it becomes clear that my wife and I benefited very little if at all, financially, from her job.  

The above scenario is actually typical for people who try to work while receiving SSI. The clerk as Social Security had tried to sound encouraging, claiming that my wife and I could each earn up to six hundred dollars a month without losing our SSDI. I had replied I would think about this.  

The six hundred cap isn’t very encouraging to me. Part of this is because the amount was lowered from eight hundred in recent years. Also, housing would still raise the rent more and nullify a third of that. And finally, six hundred dollars doesn’t go very far any more. My wife and I can’t work full-time because of our disabilities. We can’t risk earning more than six hundred dollar cap, since we would lose our Medicare. Without Medicare, we could not continue to see our psychiatrist and take these expensive medications that we are supposed to take. The only way out of this, with the rules as they are, is to become an instant millionaire, and this is a tall order.