Fight for disability payments leaves 62-year-old broke

Ora Williams has worked her entire adult life. She raised six children on the income provided by her production job. Unfortunately, she has little to show for it. Her savings, pension and retirements have all been depleted by a year-long fight to receive disability benefits.

Like most of us, Ora trusted that the money which was being withdrawn from every pay check would be there one day when she needed it. She counted on the fact that Social Security would provide exactly that: security. However, it hasn’t worked out that way.

A year ago, Ora suffered an aneurysm (a balloon-like bulge in a blood vessel which can rupture and lead to dangerous bleeding) behind her left eye which has left her unable to work. In addition, she is diabetic and has high blood pressure. However, the government’s position has been that Ora is still able to do something well enough to be able to earn a living.

Based on this assertion, Ora’s application for disability benefits has been denied, leaving her with no income for the past year. Since Ora always had mouths to feed (and has continued to help as much as she can with her grandkids), there never was a lot of extra cash left from her paychecks, so she learned to stretch her dollars as far as possible. After a year of legal wrangling in an attempt to get back some of the money she’s been regularly paying into the Social Security system, there’s no more stretch left.

According to Ora’s attorney, Republican Senator Wes Hayes, the Social Security Administration’s letter of denial states that Ora is neither blind nor disabled according to their guidelines. As a result, there should be some sort of work she can do, some job she can perform, even if it isn’t the same one she did for the 22 years prior to the onset of her medical problems.

A spokesman for the SSA declined to comment on the specifics of any case, but did acknowledge the fact that the criteria for disability are very stringent. A person can only qualify as disabled if they cannot perform any work and is not likely to survive their disability.

As you might imagine, Ora’s financial situation is pretty bleak. She made it through the winter by using her electric stove to keep her home warm enough to live in, although her current utility bill balance is approaching $900; thankfully, she has worked out a payment plan. Her water bill is nearly another $200 behind. If she had been unable to qualify for government food assistance, she likely would have had to go hungry. Thankfully, caring family members have stepped up to help whenever they could.

While Ora’s disability case is still pending on appeal, the good news is that her disability attorney has arranged for her to receive retirement benefits. Provided that she can hold out until the third week of July, she will begin to receive a monthly payment of $891.

Unfortunately, Ora’s story is becoming more and more commonplace as the baby-boomer generation reaches retirement age. As our elected officials work to increase the waiting period before disability payments are available, more of our older citizens will find themselves in the unenviable position of being unable to work yet unable to qualify for disability benefits.