When a person is born disabled or becomes disabled as an adult, they are in for a life of hardship and deprivation. Social Security for disabled people is not enough money for a person to live in any kind of comfort or liberty.

Thirty years ago, if you lived on SSI and/or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you had a chance at living tolerably. You had enough income to own a car of your own, and you could afford to go out to dinner at a restaurant a couple of times a month. You could pay for a room in a shared rental, and you could get groceries into your refrigerator.

Because of conservative governors in California, and conservative federal governments, this has changed for the worse. 

Many disabled people are forced into institutional housing, and others are fortunate enough to obtain HUD housing. However, HUD housing itself can be a source of stress, restrictions, and fear. Those persons in charge of maintaining records for the housing, such as income to determine the amount of rent we have to pay, can be intimidating people–and this is probably intentional. It seems that if we do not report every penny of what we get, we have anxiety from the possibility of being in legal trouble or possibly no longer being housed. 

For many of those who live on Social Security, there is not much to look forward to in life. 

Often, a person can’t really live adequately on Social Security, and this is especially so in the San Francisco Bay Area, where everything is highly expensive. It seems that many of us can’t make our checks stretch to cover rent, food, utilities, transportation, and clothing. And if we wanted (by some insane notion) to go out on a Friday night and do something fun, many of us would not be able to afford that on our budget.

And there is a lot of fear that can come with being disabled and poor. If we have some type of emergency in which a hundred or more dollars is needed, such as a simple car repair, a dental bill, or a necessary medication not covered by Medicare, we could be hard put to produce those funds, especially at the end of the month. 

We saw that in the case of Hurricane Katrina, which hit at the end of the month, a time when poor people in many instances could not afford to put gas into their car in order to evacuate. 

The Social Security Administration bogusly claims that it has rules that make it easier to work while receiving benefits. In fact, the amount of red tape, such as reporting wages and having our pay cut because we have income, hinders the incentive to be employed or self-employed.

Furthermore, some of us, when we get older and have health problems, are essentially unemployable. Even if we could be hired, the ability to do a job and meet the expectations of employers is often out of reach.

When the “system” deprives people of the simple, yet important gratification of having money, not necessarily a lot of money, but some money, it can lead to being very depressed.

For many of those who live on Social Security, there is not much to look forward to in life. We have conditions of being supervised, institutionalized, restricted, and deprived. The simple fact of lacking income can completely ruin our living conditions.

Good people are put in bad situations, due to the lack of affordable housing and the lack of income to which disabled people are subjected. In institutional housing or perhaps living at a boarding house, the pleasures in living are nonexistent. 

Jack Bragen is author of “Revising Behaviors that Don’t Work,” “Instructions for Dealing with Schizophrenia,” and “Jack Bragen’s 2021 Fiction Collection,” and lives in Martinez.