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Old, Disabled People, and Social Security: A Study in Depression

The safety-net is ripped and sagging and far too many people continue to fall straight through. (Photo: via TalkPoverty)

Editor’s note: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a safety net program that provides a very basic income to older adults and people with disabilities who have either no or very limited other income and resources. The maximum possible federal monthly benefit for an individual is currently $733. SSI has changed little since it was signed into law in 1972, and increasing numbers of recipients are living in poverty, going hungry, or becoming homeless. The SSI Restoration Act of 2015 would update the income and asset limits to better reflect reasonable assistance in today’s dollars.

You work your whole life. You pay your taxes – boy, do you pay your taxes. Unlike upper-middle and upper-class folks who have tax preparers and accountants to help them with their taxes and find deductions and loopholes and so forth, you get slammed every year and you can barely keep afloat…then, the worst happens.

You get old and disabled and you can’t work any more and your disability/social security isn’t really enough to live on and you never were able to get much retirement money together so the government gives you something called SSI. Between that and Social Security you still don’t have enough to live on but what can you do?

To add indignity to insult, the government tells you how much money you can have in the bank and it ain’t much, and then if you work they cut out some of the SSI so you still don’t have enough to live on.

If someone lends you money to get by you can’t repay the debt out of your Social Security or SSI because the government watches everything you do and they don’t want you to borrow money or pay it back because the bottom line is the government is afraid to be cheated. Sadly enough, they are mostly afraid of being cheated by poor people. Rich people seem to be able to get away with murder.


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So if you get a job you can’t keep your SSI money. The government will take it back. For example, if you’re getting $280 from SSI and you make $300 you are no better off than before you got a job. Probably worse off, because the SSI goes bye-bye and you have to pay taxes on your new income.

So, if you want to improve your lot (adding a swimming pool, perhaps, or more likely having a decent meal for a change), you will have to make twice as much to improve it; otherwise, like the Red Queen, you have to run like hell just to stay in place.

Now a bunch of politicians and well-wishers are trying to change the laws a little bit…not majorly, just minorly, to make it a little easier for us to survive. And yet they will run into obstacles.

I wish everyone who opposes making life a little better for poor old disabled people (or even poor old people) would put $10.00 in an envelope and send it anonymously to a poor old person.

In the meantime, I’m looking for a part-time or freelance job. I’m 72 and I’m broke and can’t afford to live on Social Security and SSI and I don’t really know what to do. Also, I’m in dialysis, so that chews up around four days a week. So I’ll keep looking for a job, albeit futilely, and if I can figure out a way to rob a bank I might do that…I have an electric wheelchair and could do a slow-speed chase down the street if I had to.…

So, whilst I’m thinking of it, if anyone out there wants to offer me a job I would be extremely happy, and also, I could use a nice little house with a yard for my dog and a couple of tomato plants and maybe a lemon tree or an avocado tree. Just thought I’d put that out there.

Cheers to all, and remember, wait for the supermarket sales! And never give up – fight to the bitter end.

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Diana Bulgarelli

Diana Bulgarelli is a composer, lyricist, and writer. She is the author of a book available on Kindle, Eating Well On the Kidney Diet. Her website is

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