Come See Their Faces, Learn the Facts

learn the facts ssaIn times of tragedy and uncertainty, Social Security is a constant for America, a lifeline. Our Faces and Facts of Disability website is at the heart of who we are as an agency. We share the stories about people living with disabling conditions and receiving benefits from Social Security. The site puts a face and name to people who truly benefit from our programs. Learning the facts and hearing peoples’ stories about disability allows for a better understanding of the Social Security program.

You can hear stories like Carrie’s who, after college, began climbing the corporate ladder in the insurance industry. She was thriving at her job, but eventually, she became ill and could no longer function at the demanding pace her position required. Carrie has Multiple Sclerosis, a disease that changed and transformed her life.

“It felt like my significance was dropping,” said Carrie in her story.

With a condition that prevented her from working, and a family to support, Carrie applied for Social Security disability benefits. Her benefits allow her to get the rest she needs and helps with the cost of her medicines. Her disability benefits also make it possible for her to feed and clothe her children.

When she needed it the most, Carrie turned to the system she had paid into throughout her working life. Social Security provides some measure of protection for workers and their families from the loss of income because of disability.

The Social Security Act sets a very strict definition of disability. Social Security pays benefits to insured people who can’t work because they have a medical condition that’s expected to last at least one year or result in death. Because the eligibility requirements are so strict, our disability beneficiaries are among the most severely impaired people in the country.

Social Security is so much more than just retirement benefits, as Carrie will tell you. We’re not just going to be there for you in retirement. We’re here to protect you now, in the event of disability, or to provide survivors benefits if a loved one you depend on dies. We’re here for you through life’s journey, securing today and tomorrow.

We invite you to visit our Faces and Facts of Disability website to meet people who succeed despite having a disability.

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32 thoughts on “Come See Their Faces, Learn the Facts

  1. My brother had a stroke last December. We are relieved that he is finally getting his disability benefits. I know he would never agree having his picture or story posted however. Dealing with his embarrassment over his disability is too painful to have it made so public.

    • Having a disability is far from embarrassing. . . Hope your brother will relieve his pain — by sharing and helping others of his experience. . . Wish the best for him and your family.

  2. Can you tell me how many more people receive SSDI today than did 10 years ago? In spite of what you say about it being so hard to get, my understanding is that, with the economy in the tank, it’s pretty easy to get disability these days. That’s the real problem with these “social safety nets”. I am all in favor of contributing to them but I don’t believe SSA does an adequate job of making sure these benefits go to people who really deserve them. And that doesn’t include people who can’t find jobs or don’t want jobs. I know of too many people who have been able to “fake” disability. I’ll grant you, it took them many months to go through all the hoops to get their claims approved, but they get it eventually.

    • same happened to me, they made me go true held to get my approved , I had it go to court and embarrass my self in front of a judge and not only that I needed to pay for a lawyer all that happened withing 1 1/2 wait. I got homeless I loss my apartment and still homeless no home sleeping here and there with family members the don’ t want to deal with a person like me. Tell me is that fair?

      • I’m sorry for your experience, Fermina. Attorneys are actually not legally allowed to charge you for social security disability cases – they only take their fees out of your backpay WHEN they win your case.

    • “The economy” has nothing at all to do with being able to receive SSDI benefits. Of course, there will always be people trying to get something for nothing; that’s part of being human. But even the vast, vast, vast majority of ppl who actually cannot work due to a disability have to go through an initial denial, then an appeal, then another appeal in order to finally get approved. And there’s always the possibility that you do not know all the facts about a person’s disability. Severe and persistent mental illness is also eligible for SSDI. And there are many diseases and conditions that are “invisible”.

      • There is nothing Human about taking/getting money from social programs that you really do not deserve.
        Get a life and do what is right.

    • Hi Susan,

      No system is perfect and there will be someone here and there who will slip through and get approved and probably shouldn’t. I have met one or two of them myself.

      I can tell you that it took me 3 1/2 to get approved and I have a condition they already approve. I had plenty of evidence and doctor reports. Georgia is just that far behind in hearings. It meant often going without medications I needed so that I wouldn’t be homeless. I even had long term disability from work and they illegally dumped me. Several people have sued them and won.

      I would give anything to be able to sit at a desk 8 hours a day again and bring home a real paycheck. I have list all my old friends because I can’t go out and do things like I did before. I would think someone would have to be worse than lazy to want to live off of this amount of money. I would rather be out there working and bringing home more money.

      Is the system perfect? No. It is the best one we have and I am very grateful for it. The ones who do cheat the system will face judgment for it someday.

      Leah

  3. Much of the general public does not really understand Social Security Disability. They either believe that it is nearly impossible to qualify for benefits or that it is like a free giveaway to freeloaders, the lazy, fraudsters, or even illegal aliens. As a former SSA claims rep, I know that the vast majority of people on Social Security Disability would rather be working and contributing to society, not to mention earning more than the fraction of their former salaries they receive in benefits each month. Yes, it is true that many people apply for benefits who are not qualified, but only about 35% of those who receive a medical decision are approved when they first apply; over 50% are eventually approved, which means that many have to file at least one or more appeals after being denied the first time. Since 1996, illegal aliens cannot be paid Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, even if they worked for many years and paid in enough from their wages to qualify for benefits; their Social Security payments are suspended until they submit proof from Immigration of lawful presence in the U.S.

    Don’t listen to the opinions of the unininformed or the willfully ignorant who not only want to throw out the baby with the bath water, and want to sell the bathtub! They either don’t know or don’t care that most of those who have to survive on Social Security Disability do so not by choice, but by necessity, and that most of those beneficiaries were once hard-working people forced to stop because of serious illness or injury.

    • There is yet another side to this: administrative law judges. SSA has been pressing for more consistency as many decisions of eligibility are highly influenced by which judge and what office hears your case. This, though not significant percentage wise, contributes to an inconsistency that calls into question fairness and creates debates about who is or should be eligible.

    • Thank you, it’s nice to see a reasoned and well informed post on here instead of angry rants. It does take time. It took well over 2 years for me. After the last appeal, it was almost a year and a half to get a hearing. But if you meet the qualifications you will eventually get it, but don’t think it will be quick.

  4. I’m pending an ALJ hearing because apparently the MS that is affecting my cognition and energy levels isn’t “bad” enough in the eyes of whomever read my case file for the initial claim and appeal. So now here it is nearly a year after first filing and I have another 12 MONTHS or so before it will POSSIBLY be on some docket for a hearing. NEXT WEEK I will actually be homeless. I’ve managed to hold out this long with the help of roommates but our landlord is putting the house up for sale and I no longer have any savings to fall back on. I have no income to verify for a new rental and even though SS is gracious enough to allow me to earn $1120 a month without it “derailing” my claim that isn’t enough do more than subsist.

    Quick Question – do you really think someone would willingly choose to leave their career where they were earning 4-6 TIMES what the disability payment would be?

    Here’s the situation IF this had been approved when initially filed or even at the first appeal level I would have been able to buy a modest home and have roommates to help me make ends meet. Instead I will be “couch surfing” trying to figure out which of my items furniture wise (piano, bed, display cabinet, etc) that I really won’t miss because you know – homeless and no place to put them and no money to pay for storage.

    Quick question did you know that if you have a diagnosis of MS you can’t even sell your plasma for any extra cash which I find really weird since the red Cross will still take that blood donation.

    There is some light at the end of this though – I guess though it’s kind of hard to see right now…when it goes in front of the ALJ and gets approved (which I’m sure it will since there is nothing that triggers MS attacks quicker than stress) I will be “entitled” to benefits back to the date of my initial application of course I will have to deduct the $6000 lawyer fee from that. Don’t take the word of the person that you talk to at the SS office when you go in person to ask them questions and their response is you have MS approval will be no problem. When they send you to their doctor (who fell asleep during my appointment) and that person decides you aren’t “depressed” enough to qualify for disability. I didn’t say I was depressed I said I have MS it has been affecting my mental cognition and my energy levels. I made the biggest mistake when I made sure I was real rested before visiting the doctor. You know because I took my 3 hour nap before the appointment not during it. If I hadn’t on that particular day I would have been slurring my words and the vertigo would have been more of a challenge.

    BTW when someone is asked what their career is maybe your staff should do some research on what that job is before deciding that someone could do that.

    So right now I’m stressed as hell and my left arm is numb from the elbow down (I’m left handed and that is one of the ways MS has chosen to attack my body) and all of my strategies for trying to make it through the next year are falling flat.

    I realize that the SSDI system needs to screen applicants but I’ve been paying into this system and it would be nice to know it was actually available when needed.

    My strong suggestion for anyone that is applying is START with a lawyer and have someone else go over papers for you. The most the lawyer can take in payment is 25% or $6000 of back funds. If my case was heard today the lawyer would receive that $6000 from the amount that has already accumulated since Sept 2015 – just waiting for that judge to decide that I’m actually disabled enough to receive it.

    So here is one of your faces covered in tears and frustrated as hell trying to figure out where and how I’m going to be living for the next year.

    • Just so you know, if an initial claim is taken by an attorney, it is then submitted to the local Social Security office before it goes to the state for the medical decision. At that level, the attorney does not have the opportunity to appear before the person who will make the medical decision on the claim. Therefore, the only advantage of having an attorney handle the initial claim would be having him review the medical information before the claim is filed; the initial medical decision is made the same way with or without an attorney, so you may be paying up to $6,000 extra for a service that gets you no real advantage. At the hearing level, an attorney can help present your case in person before an Administrative Law Judge, which may give you the advantage of professional experience.

      • Good advice, an attorney at the initial claims stage is about worthless. A fee of 25% is appropriate but not $6000.00 or any other fixed amount. Most disability attorneys will only collect if you win your case. Keep the money in your pocket until you file an appeal before an ALJ.

        • I am an attorney in this area. The reason for an attorney is the forms can trick/trap you. For e.g., not putting your work history accurately – ie, amount of time on feet, weight lifted; or, your daily activities – washing dishes w/ breaks. The responses can haunt you.

  5. Rebised above statement: thank you!
    I lost my job from a disability 41 months ago. A judge that my employer’s hired guns went at me with in their initiated court battle netted them losing on all points all the way thru second appeal. I was to be returned to a job of equal pay & level. That never happened. I have been homeless now in my 33rd month. I went to ask about the ticket to work, I was finally convinced to apply for SSDI. They would SEND me to a doctor. That never happened, I was strung along for six-months, denied, no ticket-to-work because if your eligible for that program in CA or Ventura County that makes you ineligible. I broke three vertebrae in my cervical spine. A bone is unconnected somewhere, I developed a choking condition four years ago. I can now eat all of about ten things. I keep trying to the best of my situations limiting abilities to push on & get my life back, or modified life going & in place. I’ve got helpers, case managers with County, Salvation Army a Battle Buddy, a Self Support for Veteran Families (SSVF) social worker, VA advocates through my husband, though his military record presents some challenges, we believe will be overcome by those advocating for us.
    My husband disabled since 1997 has been in ongoing battle to save his feet since 2007. He us partial amputee in both feet will never walk again, on infusion therapy depending on what the three MRSA infections & gangrene in his last left remaining metatarsal have not become resistent to.
    I have a service dog. We do nit appear to fit anywhere anyone has yet found. I sleep in my legal but barely running, always in need of something car. With just a few weeks or month of stability, electricity safety for all of us, I know/believe at the point I am now, I could get a job. That time languishes no matter my daily efforts. I din’t know how ling U can keep that stasis going. Certainly there must be somewhere that would give our small family unit & my service dog one month to have a roof, electricity and the opportunity to get a job. I have a computer to use & a printer. No electricity in my car. So, from my car I’ve yet to find it possible. Lastly, other than one case manager who has not officially been my case manager since Jan. 2015 but sticks with me, all other helpers & advocates on our behalf have come onboard brought together through various happenstance meetings, one outreach to another, a referral or two, a reconnection with a VA Claims Manager my husband lost contact with the 1st two years we were homeless. With all the energy & hope I muster daily, I have in the past couple months seen a glimmer of hope & light at the end of a tunnel. I need the support to make it back to society norm now. I fear I teeter on the verge of that light not coming to illumination & fading out.
    I loved my job and was good at it. Why they have not corrected the HR System I do not know. I think it is unfair that they get tax breaks or money for hiring disabled individuals. I win’t say anything beyond myself, but I would be an absolute benefit to my prior employer. I have had much healing physically and know what food to eat to allow me to function normally so no one sees my disabilities. I will be an asset to any company with my Masters Public Administration and undergrad in Management. I am young, retain myself professionally and deserve a chance. Blessings to All!

    • In your case it would be helpful if you had assistance in presenting your case if you filed for any kind of benefit. You’re language skills would hold you back otherwise in spite of a Masters in Public Management. I wish you and yours all the best.

  6. I would like opportunities for me to have an education, employment and retirement. I felt uncertain feeling that I maybe not being able to care for myself as a disabled person with just SSI and a part time self employed with no retirement plans.

  7. After my husband passed away, I am young widow and I would to know if there is hope for me to have financial planing for retirement even though I am on SSI and I am self-employed part time. I am worried about caring for myself. I saw a show on CSPAN3 about financial planning of retirement for low income people. Would this idea help disabled people to become more independent to plan for their senior years?

    • Most people on limited income have nothing to set aside to have a future plan. This includes those on disability or working at a menial job because illegals are driving down wages and job opportunities.

  8. I have been waiting for over a year for a court date for my appeal I had a Ruptured cerebral aneurysm and developed hydrocephelus my neurosurgeon said he doesn’t usually recommend disability for someone my age 52 but in my case he said he does social security said I can do something with my education I graduated from high school in 1982 2 doctors from social security said I was incapable of handling finances they said even though I can’t go back to my job in production I’m not disabled. I would give anything to be able to go back to work I’m on long-term disability thru my old employer I have been fighting this for almost 2 years social security has done nothing for me but make me feel like I’m a lazy bum I’m glad it works for some because it has done nothing but stress me out I had a very significan@t bleed and it has aged me 10 years the hydrocephelus is for the rest of my life I’ve already had a shunt malfunction I had three brain surgeries: maybe some day I’ll get a court date at the rate they are going I’ll be dead first

  9. I have read all of these stories that has left persons that should be on SSDI, left homeless and without any type of benefit. This is a very horrible thought for me as I had a very serious neck injury due to a drunk and after attempting to find a job, I was discharged from my regular job for non productivity. That was not the case at all as the New CEO decided that I might fall at work and cost the Insurance Company another 4 million dollar cost. Fortunately for me when I finally realized that I wasn’t going to get hired anywhere. I had help filing for SSDI and was approved on the 1st attempt to be approved for it. God was definitely and has been at work inside me for a very long time. Since my severe neck injury, I had a nasty fall and broke my right lumbar in half, leaving Church. I’ve been at a rehab from the VA for the past 9 months and have only 15 workouts left. It’s very hard for me to walk, however I able to limitations
    I’ll be praying that God will intercede into the lives of those whom have not had it as easy as me. There is more than Great Power in Prayer..

  10. It is unfortunate that the SS Administration feels the need to brag about all the good it is doing. Every article like this only produces stories about those who are struggling through the claims process with a few success stories sprinkled in for good measure. As such these posts are of little public benefit. It is better than reading about some minority event for less than 1% of the population though and that’s about all..

  11. My disability payments are high than unemployment benefits. I don’t mind being a lazy freeloader.

    Most people are not looking for work when they are collecting unemployment. They pretend to be looking for work every week to collect unemployment.

    They lie and say they are looking for work. The SSA is so stupid and believe the liers when they say they are too disabled to work. How can the SSA find their statements credible when they lie under penalty of perjury for unemployment.

    These lazy people find out that they can get more money on disability, so they apply for disability while collecting unemployment.

    The SSA is stupid and approved more of these lazy freeloaders for disability during the time of the recession.

    If they can be lazy and freeload off unemployment, then it is much easier for them to freeload off disability because it is more money.

    Every entitlement system has a bunch of lazy freeloaders. It is how it works.

  12. I was involved in a traumatic, almost deadly, car wreck when I was 22 y/o & someone ran a red light. I ended up losing a lot of my memories due to a TBI (traumatic brain injury) while having bleeding in my brain, skull fractures, amnesia, internal bleeding which required me to be cut open from under my breast down past my belly button, multiple fractured ribs on the left side, broken clavicle on the left side, ruptured spleen which was removed, lacerated liver, multiple blood transfusions, a severely crushed pelvis which broke practically every bone in the pelvic region, including most I’ve never heard of (tailbone, pubic bones, iliac wings, etc). Not one of these broken bones could be reset, meaning wherever they broke, they healed crooked and somehow my sacrum grew to attack to my last vertebra but on one side. They said I would never walk again, but being a single mom at 22 and had recently graduating with my paralegal diploma, while just starting a modeling career & finishing my first commercial as my second income I was determined to get back on my feet. Unfortunately I had to leave my dream job behind of acting & modeling so my daughter & I could relocate 4 hours away to where my parents lived so I could get the help I needed with my daughter & my rehabilitation but a year later I was working again as a paralegal but lived with chronic pain as my spine slowly got worse & where nerves were damaged. I had 4 other car wrecks during the 18 years I worked as a paralegal which exacerbated by previous injuries each time (none were my fault). Then in 2011 I was assaulted and ended up with a second TBI and more herniations in my spine. My neck & lumbar spine being the worse. I developed cervical rotational scoliosis in my neck so I have a crooked neck now. My herniations are flattening my thecal sac and almost every disc in my neck & lumbar spine are herniated. I have arthritis all down my spine, chronic migraines and constant chronic pain which worsened each year. My last day to work was 3/1/2013 due to having issues remembering things, not completing tasks, constant complaints of pain requiring me to have to take breaks and then I eventually started falling asleep at my desk, being late to work (18 years as a paralegal I was a complete OCD workaholic arriving to work early, working through lunch, staying late or taking work home then suddenly this). My neurologist who had treated me for my 2011 concussion/TBI referred me to a sleep specialist and 13 days after I was let go I was diagnosed with narcolepsy.
    It’s recommended to rest following a TBI at least 6 months to a year but being a single mom of 2 girls & a workaholic I kept going and my neuro thought maybe I had a stroke at some point. The 18 months I worked at my last job I had fallen down the concrete stairs which I’m sure did not help my brain & spine.

    Searching for a job was even more difficult due to not being able to wake up in the morning to get my daughter to school timely. My new diagnosis was controlling my life & I had no health insurance anymore & couldn’t help but want to constantly sleep. I hired a lawyer & filed for SS disability in Feb. 2014, almost a year after my new diagnosis. Had to get on Medicaid & food stamps then ran through all my retirement funds trying to survive & pay my mortgage. I had been treated off & on for PTSD from my traumatic car wreck, from the assault which had also knocked out my top four teeth, & “other things”, previously treated for OCD, anxiety & major depression with my first psychiatric visit when I was 14 & tried to kill myself I was diagnosed with multiple personality disorder but my mom told me that was wrong & I was perfect just the way I was so I grew up trying to be perfect, look perfect never mentioning my original diagnosis to my new psychiatrist I saw at age 24 on because my mom said I didn’t have it. Anyways I was denied and denied, referred to two SS drs for evaluations both staying in writing that I could no longer be a paralegal or do other work. I had 2 sleep specialist/neurologists stating I could not work, I had a psychiatrist stating I could not work and then my pain management dr who had me on slow release morphine 24/hrs along with other medications so obviously stating I shouldn’t even be driving while on narcotics if they make me drowsy (I already have narcolepsy and excessive daytime sleepiness) so I’m chancing getting a DUI or involved in an accident every time I get behind the wheel but there are times (like the day of my hearing) when I had to drive because my only support is my boyfriend & he was in the hospital having double knee surgery so I had no choice but to drive to the hearing. The judge went against 5 doctors saying I couldn’t work, two of which were hired & paid for by SS not even acknowledging my narcolepsy and excessive daytime sleepiness stating I could work 8 hrs a day doing sedentary work…. That was in Jan 2016 so now I’m awaiting the appeal process as I have no insurance, no income & foreclosure knocking at my door. It’s been over 3 years since I worked making a VERY good salary with bonuses in the thousands at times. Obviously I would love to be driving my BMW or convertible mustang vs my dads old truck with no AC, when I have to drive. How much more evidence is needed? How much longer will this stress continue? We all know stress exacerbates medical conditions and I’m still being tested to find out why I’ve suddenly gained 60lbs in 5 months and why I randomly walk sideways when I start to walk or why my balance is causing me to fall to the right or backwards. I feel like I’ve been living a nightmare since 2011 & all I do is pray for the door to open so I can get out. If anyone knows how long this appeal part takes or how to expedite this please let me know. I pray for all of you that are in my situation. I’m aware of at least 2 people who flew right through this in 6 months and aren’t even close to being in a medical condition I’m in and some who work under the table & it’s so unfair that I’ve had to suffer this long to the point of losing my 12 y/o daughter due to no income & not being able to care for her bc I can’t currently care for myself with assistance but if I had been approved I would have the help I need to have my baby girl back vs missing out on her growing up & of being a mom. I had a major identity crisis learning I wasn’t & couldn’t be a litigation paralegal anymore. That was a proud title I carried when asked what I do for a living
    Then when losing my daughter was horrifying!! I had always had a child to care for with me consistently for 23 years, then suddenly it’s gone. Sorry this is so long. Prayers to you all and I don’t hold hate towards the SS system, I just pray they can look at it from this perspective and help make it right. If I didn’t have 2 daughters & an amazing boyfriend there’s a big chance I would’ve committed suicide by now due to the overwhelming painful stress. I hear that’s happened a lot. God bless🙏

    • I am so, so sorry that you are experiencing this. Please think of your beautiful daughters. I can understand how devastated you must feel. I owned two companies; a medical transription company (50 employees) and was looking to expand when a pharmasist overdosed me and I stroked. That was 14 years ago. My cogniction was checked and found to be about 50% of what it was. When medical transcription was outsourced to India, I took up my began my photography business. I was making great money, but unfortunately I had a second stroke that caused damage to my body, leaving me with tonic-clonic movements. I kept fighting and ended up taking a low paying security job. Unfortunately, I had fall issues and memory issues (sundowner syndrome). The bones in my back have grown together which does not go well with my broken pelvis (gymnastics injury). I had an attorney from day one. Some days I can think straight and under days it is hopeless. I was just recently approved for disability. The spinal damage has caused a great deal of problems. While being tested they found cancer. I was homeless living on other peoples couches for a year. It took 10 months before to get my disability, after taking me 10 years to comprehend that neither my brain or body were going to cooperate with me. The only two people I know who are receiving disability that should not be are receiving it from the VA. It is a hard fight, but it is best to have an advocate or attorney help from the beginning. I wish you all the best and I hope you are able to get care and disability. Lastly for those of you who think lazy people apply for disability, shame on you. I would give anything to be able to be a productive member, again, of the working society.

  13. If you think it is tough getting benefits, you should try collecting on a private disability insurance claim. My insurance company said that since I was not working(Duh, no kidding back hurt too much), that I did not qualify. This was even with a doctor’s opinion. Called my state insurance commissioner’s office and explained what was going on. After about 12 weeks of waiting, they sided with the insurance company! So much for being an advocate for the consumer! Got a lawyer, and as soon as he initiated contact with them they started offering to settle. The whole system is rigged for the insurance companies and their lobbyists. Cost me a hell of a bunch of money, but I finally got my settlement(less about a third for the attorney). Bottom line is this: When buying private insurance, buy double the amount that you think you will need, since you are going to have to hire a lawyer to collect any money!
    For SSD: When filling out the forms you need to list as number one reason you can’t work that you can’t pass the pre-employment physical exam, and make darn sure your Doctor backs you up on that. I did that, and got mine in 89 days without a lawyer…Good luck!

  14. This is all about helping people who have contributed to the system all their life, to get the deal they need. No one who hasn’t been through disability knows how tough it is. Not only economically but you also need to consider the emotional hardship too. Disability deserves respect and social security benefits – it’s the sign of a humane society. 

  15. I am age 59. I have been disabled since age 56 due to MS. I applied for SSDI personally upon leaving my employment of nearly 30 years at the same position. I had no problems filing and being approved for this program even though I had no legal help.My only advise to the public is to be aware that SSDI assistance begins AFTER you are unable to work for 6 months. There is not a provision for back pay – so be prepared to cover living expenses for at least that long if you should become disabled (even if your experience is as efficient as mine was). It is so easy to just live for today, but you also need to plan for the unexpected future that may happen to you. I was expecting to never need this help, but found out it was a blessing it was available. Now is maybe great, but no knows what the future holds for each of us

    Plan your own future with savings!

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