The other day when I was having lunch with my mom, she told me about a horrible phone conversation she had with an employee working with Social Security.
As a new retiree, my mom was calling the Social Security Administration to see what she needed to do to start her social security payments.
But what started out as a cordial conversation, turned into a heated debate.
At the beginning of the conversation, the employee was asking my mom some demographic information to prepare her application. The process was going normally until he asked her if she had any children with disabilities.
"Yes," she replied.
The employee then asked if her child (me, of course) was employed. He also asked what my income was.
My mom said yes, I was employed and made between $38,000-$45,000. She was unaware of the exact amount.
"Well he's not disabled then," he exclaimed.
As you can imagine, my mom was shocked at that statement.
"What," she said in disbelief. "What do you mean?"
"If he makes that much money, then he's not disabled," he proclaimed.
My mom then fired back and said I'm very much disabled and proceeded to tell the employee that I am a quadriplegic and use an electric wheelchair to get around.
His response to that was even more astounding. Jake from State Farm, he is not.
"So is Stephen Hawking," the employee remarked.
Before a total argument broke out, my mom kept her calm and finished answering his questions without dignifying his remark with a response.
It's interactions like this that highlight the need for a complete overhaul of the benefits system offered to those with disabilities by the U.S. government.
For those unaware, people with disabilities are eligible to receive monthly stipends from the government similar to social security. But one of the many stipulations of this program is that you can't earn more than a certain amount or you will become ineligible for the program.
I, unfortunately, had to learn this the hard way.
When I got my first job, I was receiving the monthly stipend and started earning money from my job.
It didn't take long for Social Security to inform me that I was no longer eligible to receive these payments due to my new income. On top of that, I had to pay back the payments I received while I was working.
Sadly, I'm still paying them back to this day.
This rule infuriates me to no end. In a program that is designed to support people with disabilities, it seems like the disability has no bearing on the program at all.
The only thing that matters is if you're poor. But the last time I checked, my bank account doesn't determine the severity of my disability.
And contrary to that employee's thinking, a large paycheck isn't going to miraculously make my arms move.
If this story infuriates you as much as me, please share this with as many people as you can. It's time that people with disabilities have a stronger voice in society and with enough support, hopefully those in power will finally start to listen.