Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Can I Live on SSI?

- By Guest Blogger Stephanie Hickey -

Can I pay the water bill next month? Can the brakes on my car last until October? How long can the roof hold on until I have the money to fix it? Many people ask themselves these questions due to the present economy. However, I ask myself these questions nearly every month because my sole source of income is an SSI check.

A cashier once told me he wished he could get that much money (insert SSI check amount here) for doing nothing. Too flabbergasted, I didn’t respond, but the remark has stuck with me. Is this cashier’s perception of SSI dependants the popular assessment?

It raises a flood of questions: Does getting one lump sum to sustain you through an entire month of living (not to mention being disabled in some way) sound like an easy life, a “free ride”? Do individuals think SSI dependants live high on the hog? For most of us, after rent, utilities, food and other basic necessities--soap, toiletries, clothes, etc…--that grand lump sum we attain for “doing nothing” is gone, leaving us without anything until the beginning of another next month. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

And what of the “nothing”--the reason we get SSI checks. To remind those with “cashier attitude” it’s because of that pesky little thing called a disability. We have to deal with mental or physical impairments for which we didn’t ask, didn’t want. I developed Cerebral Palsy before I could walk, let alone work a job. I am lucky, though: my condition has improved to the point where I can work and want to. But what of the dependants whose conditions haven’t and/or won’t improve to the point that they can work? Does getting that lump sum really provide for them or even out being disabled?

I’m not ashamed of my disability, never have been, will be, nor even consider it a disability, but there are times I wish I could trade places with an individual whose body is completely healthy. It’s not so much for those physical things that would be easier for me to do, but to rid myself of the stigma, the shame I sometimes feel because of others’ beliefs. There are those who take their resentment--for lack of a better word-- of disability benefits further than the casual “cashier attitude”, contending too much of their tax dollars pay for people who, in their minds, do nothing. Do these “hard-core cashiers” think we feel good being dependants, being seen as free-loaders?

And to those who think it would be easy or that it is too much on tax payers, I challenge them to live on an SSI check for one month and see if it is truly enough on which they, or any individual can truly live. In fact, I challenge those sitting in Congress--who freely give themselves generous raises--to do the same and see how their opinions might change after seeing how the “other half lives”. Perhaps that might bring about the real changes this country needs.

Photo Credit Flickr

1 comment:

  1. I would also comment that, even if you CAN work, people's perceptions of what people with disabilities can do are hindrances to getting a job. You may have the ability to do the job and do it well, but depending on the mindset of the person doing the interview, you may be passed over for the job.