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Why I Fear Losing Disability Benefits

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I’ve been on SSDI for seven years now, for which I am profoundly grateful. It has given me the time to work on getting on top of my bipolar disorder (lots of therapy and very good medications) while continuing to struggle with daily chronic headaches, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, as well as other age-related illnesses such as osteoarthritis, ongoing IBS and degenerative disk disease in my neck.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

It seemed like the process of being approved for disability took forever. I was denied the first time, as most people seem to find true. The second time, on the advice of several therapists and doctors, I found an attorney who specialized in disability and didn’t advertise her services on the back cover of the yellow pages or on daytime TV.

The day I got the call that I had been approved seemed almost surreal. I went home and told my husband, who immediately asked for a new computer. Which we did not buy. I was dreaming of writing checks to all our creditors and paying them in full. I did that, while simultaneously taking over the task of keeping the bills paid.

Seven years later, my husband has retired and has a modest pension from his years working on the railroad, and we have my disability check, both on the first of the month. Even with all my health issues, for the last six years it’s been necessary for me to scrabble for part time work, mostly child care for friends.

With Trump and his cronies in office, the possibility of cuts to Social Security and SSDI looms large. I’m currently not working, and frankly, we won’t be eating or driving this last 10 days of September. Hear me out. I sit down on the first day of every month and pay all our bills in full, except for one ill-advised credit card we got approved for. Whatever is left first covers our medications, then a modicum of groceries and gasoline. I expect you can imagine the stress that engenders. It’s bad, my friends.

One day, feeling panic-stricken and worrying about impending death, my husband and I had a very frank talk. Neither of us knew for sure what exactly would happen if he dies before I do. He’s about to turn 70 and I just turned 58. We’ve been married for 20 years.

So to try and appease my panic, he took himself over to the local Social Security office and asked some questions. The answer was staggering. If he dies before I do, I immediately lose my disability and get one half of his pension. That half comes out to roughly $850.

My point? Make smart financial decisions as early as you can. Save all you can. Buy life insurance before you won’t get approved due to health issues. That just happened to us last week. And let me tell you, there have been many tears and sleepless nights since then.

Be peace to one another.

Getty image by GPalmer1477.

Originally published: October 1, 2018
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