A little while back a friend shared what most of our society considers very personal information. She told all of Twitter how much she makes and how that paid for her survival. For some reason, we have all been told that you should never share how much you make out of fear that you will be judged. I’ve never really understood this thinking and I’m finding as a disabled person, many people use this ignorance as justification for looking down on those of us who rely on public assistance to survive.

So let me educate you all.

Disability

On November 11th, 2006, I was declared disabled. As a disabled person, who worked from 15 to 30, I am entitled to collect Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI, or SSD to all of you). This is insurance that I paid into with every paycheck I received for 15 years.  By the time I was disabled, I had paid into this insurance enough to collect a little under $700 per month. Since then, I have continued to work on and off, part-time, adding more to what I am eligible to receive, so now I’m up to a little under $800 per month. In ten years, I have only been able to increase my portion by about $100, because people deeply believe that I’m a Welfare Queen. So, they vote for people who are going to keep cutting what I can receive… but I digress.

SNAP and Section 8

In addition to my SSDI, I also am eligible to receive SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and Section 8 (Housing Choice Voucher Program) as are many people who are disabled. Grand total, this brings my monthly income up to $1,752 (the living wage for the county I live in is $2,145.86. See a problem yet? We’ll talk more about this later). But the payment for my housing goes directly to my landlord (and the rules to get those payments are extensive). And my SNAP benefits can only be used at particular stores with an EBT card, and only on food products for humans (meaning my service dog isn’t included in my benefits, but we’ll get to that later too). Bringing what I have to pay all my other bills back down to under $800 a month.

The Math

Ok, so start with $800

Subtract $200 for my portion of the rent (yes, I have to pay rent on section 8. No one gets all of their rent covered no matter how low their income is).

Subtract $300 for the debt an ex left me with (totally was targeted by an abusive person who used finances as a form of control – but that’s for another post).

Subtract $50 for utilities (there’s no public assistance for electricity, or air conditioning, and heating assistance is only covered partially).

Subtract $75 for phone service (I’m lucky, my bill is usually less than this, but that’s because I’ve made other arrangements).

Subtract $50 for internet service (this is some of how I keep my phone bills down).

This brings us down to $125 for medical bills, my portion of food costs (SNAP is only designed to cover half of what they think is a reasonable amount for food in your household; so, if you have food allergies or special dietary needs like I do, you’re screwed), the expenses associated with needing a service dog (while she is considered a medical device, she isn’t covered by any public assistance including medicare or medicaid; I pay for all of her food, vet care, and grooming which are required by law for her to be a service dog), clothing, entertainment (yes, I need entertainment – I’m a human being – sue me), insurance (renters, and medical – I can’t afford to own a car), and transportation.

And with all of this wealth, I live high on the hog as a Welfare Queen!

This is in comparison to say… Wal-mart.

Tell me again about how I’m leeching off the system.