I'm not Living off Disability!

I'm not living off disability!.png

I'm not living off disability!

Expecting a person to live off disability seems unreasonable. There are so many great modifications for an accessible home and vehicle, even assisted living facilities with staff available around the clock to help residents with disabilities. However, the creators have failed to consider that most people living off disability a person could never afford any of the available resources.


The movie "Me Before You" is a popular movie suggestion to encourage people with disabilities that there are people in the world who look past physical appearances and share love based on character. In the movie, the disabled man who is living off disability has an accessible apartment with automatic sliding doors, a very large accessible bathroom with fancy mechanical devices to help him transfer and an abundance of other Mobility aids and equipment. He has a Mobility van equipped with a ramp for his wheelchair and a personal assistant to drive him around.

Perhaps it is an intended pun that the disabled man was the son of a very wealthy family, who own a castle! He could not be living off disability he would need a higher than average income in order to afford most quality care and along with mobility aids and equipment. The harsh reality of real world living is that most people become disabled at less than convenient times. Most people don't consider factoring Mobility aids into their budget, so where can one turn to if and when faced with that fate?



It’s a tough pill for some to swallow and may seem unfair. In order to determine the amount of disability benefits awarded, the Social Security Administration looks to individual financial eligibility based on work history of the applicant and past aims towards the National Social Security trust fund in the form of FICA social security taxes.

In short, SSI is a need-based program intended to be a source of income for the disabled to live off disability. Collectors are determined by the Social Security Administration, based on given assets. It is funded by general taxes rather than from the Social Security trust fund. SSI has nothing to do with work history and is for people with very little income or assets. These persons would also qualify for health coverage from the government. Most of the people living off disability receive SSI would be young adults who have pre-existing conditions.

If the head of household were to meet the financial eligibility requirements, disabled children may be eligible to receive partial dependent benefits or auxiliary benefits. After 18, their child would need to reapply for benefits based on their own history and are required by law to report any assets received in their lifetime. This may not exceed $2,000 or the awarded benefits will be stopped which is difficult when living off disability.


SSD (or SSDI) is a similar program, yet the eligibility requirements are quite different. The program is for people younger than the standard retirement age of 65 who are no longer able to work.

Expecting a person to be living off disability seems unreasonable. There are so many great modifications for an accessible home and vehicle, even assisted living facilities with staff available around the clock to help residents with disabilities. However, the creators have failed to consider that most people with disabilities could never afford any of the available resources.

SSD (or SSDI) is a similar program, yet the eligibility requirements are quite different. The program is for people younger than the standard retirement age of 65 who are no longer able to work as result of a disability. According to the SSA standards, those who are not able to earn substantial gainful activity for 1 year due to a recognized Medical issue are eligible for SSD. Those people would have worked for 7 years and at least five of those years within the past 10 years.

The SSA encourages people to return to work after a disability. However, if substantial gainful activity can be obtained by making over $1,170 per month, Social Security Disability income and benefits will no longer be provided. There are loopholes around this rule that might make living off disability seem more realistic.

Work Incentive Seminar Events (WISE) offers webinars online to assist SSI/SSD recipients understand the Ticket to Work Program, which allows SS recipients to join the workforce while being protected from losing benefits. Exploring work options is often more complicated for disabled people. Considering accessibility and mobility transportation is overwhelming and the typical belief is to not aspire beyond the line  By simply following the rules, a disabled person could continually gain all income and healthcare coverage from the government.  


When a person living on disability decides to join the workforce, there can be a 9 to 12 month trial period before SSDI will be cut off if the person is making substantial gainful activity each month. Moreover, their file will not close with SSA for 5 years if they need to go back on SSD.


Most states offer Mobility transportation for people with disabilities. This is a curb to curb service for people who cannot drive and do not have a personal means of transportation or someone to drive them. This service comes with lots of inconvenient downfalls but will get you from place to place if that is your only option if living off disability. This service is affordable and low cost. However, there are similar services available for free that provide Mobility transportation to doctor visits.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, as of 1990, of public means of transportation offered to the public , must also be accessible for those with disabilities.This means every bus, plane, train or source of transportation created after 1990 is to offer accessibility. Some metro entrances in NYC were made before this and therefore, the entrance is not required to offer a ramp or elevator.


Each state has a vocational rehabilitation agency available. Although it is a lengthy process, these are for people with disabilities prepare for and maintain employment. Vocational rehab considers all aspects including job training and schooling, assistive technology, Mobility aids and equipment, accessible housing as well  as accessible transportation if having to live off disability

If a person is receiving SSI or SSDI they are usually eligible for Vocational Rehab. Once approved, a personal case manager is assigned to the individual and that person is responsible for providing resources to the person and their specific needs.

Vocational rehab can usually help provide some finances in order to convert a standard van into a vehicle equipped for a standard wheelchair, including a ramp and security straps, but there are also some requirements that maybe a little bit pricey for a person living off disability.

The vehicle must be relatively new in order for vocational rehab to provide finances to convert it. Also, the vehicle must be owned by the disabled person. This is the part that is financially tricky. SSI will deduct monthly payments for any assets it's owned by the recipient, leaving one to struggle making car payments, only to finally own the vehicle and be given less money each month. The same rules apply for housing, although there are a few loopholes around this. Making it near impossible to attain a vehicle while living off disability.



If the disabled person lives in a residence owned by their parents, vocational rehab will usually help with funding for modifications to the home in order to make it more accessible, while living off disability. So long as the disabled person also lives there. It might be wiser for a person to ask for modifications for severe limitation, even if that is not needed at the time. Although this is very difficult and maybe scary, it is the best thing to do because once modifications are made vocational rehab is very unlikely to help with any financial assistance to changes in the future. So hopefully icantwalk.com can assist with ideas about alternative mobility aids and equipment.

There are some housing options for the disabled and low-income. There are group homes for those who need assistance around the clock and cannot afford to live in an assisted living facility, which is pretty expensive, even for the average American Income. Though it is not ideal to many, that option is always available when living off disability.

Another option for low income, disabled or elderly is certified public housing or subsidized housing. The certification process requires the head of the household or tenants over 18 to have very little income and few assets (most are on SSI/SSD). Seeing monthly rent payment is 30% that income.Unfortunately, most of the buildings which offer this are older and less appealing especially to the disabled who require accessibility. If the building was built before the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, accessibility would not have been considered in construction plans of the bathroom, for example, even if the unit is on the first floor and able to access from a wheelchair, the doorways are not required to be 36 inches wide and the bathroom would not be required to meet ADA standards.

Title II of the ADA, however, along with the Department of Justice's regulations 28 CFR 35, prohibit States and governments from discriminating on the basis of disability and denying such individuals in participation to any benefit of a public entity service. It is because of this law that people with disabilities can receive financial assistance from their state to modify a rented unit with home mobility aids (not construction). Most subsidized places will say that they will not accept a reasonable accommodation for a tenant to install these home mobility aids until threatened by higher command. In other words, this means more work for the disabled applicant.

Section 8 housing Choice vouchers offers affordable housing also for very low income and disabled. This is basically the same as the subsidized option in that the monthly rent is determined by 30% of the household income, however, this program allows assistance for home and apartment buildings anywhere how much not just in subsidized housing areas. This allows the tenant to find a living facility which they will be most comfortable living in. Obviously, though, there are major downfalls to this program. The biggest of them being that the waitlist for Section 8 can be several decades, depending on the state you live in. Also, because of the subsidized housing and group home options, those living on disability most likely to be pushed back on the list of importance when other cases arise.


The movie only gives a small reflection of physical troubles a disabled person truly faces. Being independent while living off disability is extremely hard, although possible with hard work. No one is judging if disability benefits are truly required. However, no one living on disability is required to stay living on disability, just because they are disabled. Perhaps SSDI is actually a misinterpreted tool to help those struggling with a disability to push the boundaries placed upon them and strive for bigger things. Or, it is an unfair way of living for those who are already given an unsteady fate. The choice is personal as well as one which may ease future issues that come with living off disability.

Written By: Lauren Williams