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  • blake-watson

    October 19, 2021 at 9:18 pm

    I really loved this episode! Hearing everyone’s stories and perspectives was helpful and encouraging.

    I hated to hear Michael’s story about asking for a pay cut. It sucks that we’d ever have to do that and it’s antithetical to the stated goals of the programs we rely on—an indictment of the system for sure.

    I covered much of my story when I was on the podcast but I’ll recount it here.

    My story

    I graduated grad school (MBA) in 2009 right smack in the middle of the housing crisis. I had not worked much before that—I wish I would’ve known how important internships or other work experience would be. I had a lot of trouble finding work. I had picked up web design and development in college and was trying to find full-time work in the industry.

    Things are better now but at the time the tech industry in Mississippi wasn’t exactly booming. At least not for the jobs I was qualified for. I did whatever freelance work I could and started to build up a portfolio (it’s worth mentioning that one of my first clients was the late Greg Smith, a successful writer and motivational speaker with SMA).

    I went on a number of job interviews that didn’t lead anywhere. While I tried not to let it bug I do think I faced a bit of discrimination. By 2014, after a few false starts and long periods of no work at all I began to get discouraged. As my disability progressed and my resume gathered dust I contemplated giving up on ever finding a job. It was deeply disheartening. I felt defeated. I also wanted to date but felt worthless, unproductive, and emasculated (I realize now that I was way too hard on myself and that being unemployed doesn’t make you less of a person).

    Long story short in 2015 I finally came across an employer that appreciated my work—a local ad agency. I was hired and ended up working that job until 2019. I used to work in the office but after some medical complications began working from home. In search of a fully remote company (and higher pay) I took my current position working for a NASA contractor called MRI Technologies. It’s been great so far. I miss the office (and The Office) but working from home is so nice.

    On making money and receiving public benefits (SSI version)

    I know we all have our own journeys but if you happen to be on SSI then you are in a good position to make a lot of income. They haven’t made me switch to anything else yet so I don’t know what the exact rule is about transitioning to SSDI.

    You may be aware of the $2,000 asset limit as well as the income limit of your state. However there is a stipulation called 1619(b) “Continued Medicaid Eligibility” that allows you to continue to receive access to Medicaid via SSI, even if you make too much to receive SSI cash payments. Furthermore, there is a stipulation called the Individualized Threshold that allows you to make substantially more income than your state’s published limit.

    TL;DR under SSI you can make an amount of annual income that is up to the annual cost of your Medicaid expenditures.

    I’m not a lawyer and it’s definitely worth booking an hour or two with one, but this SSI “loophole” is extremely beneficial to working disabled people on SSI. You still have the $2,000 asset limit, though, so you will need to put any excess funds in an ABLE account. SSI 1619b, the individualized threshold, and the ABLE account is the holy grail of working as a person with a disability.

    One more thing

    I didn’t mean for this to be so long but we’re here now so I just wanted to share this video I made about disability employment as part of a Department of Labor contest a while back. If you made it this far thanks for reading. ????

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