Center for Health Journalism: America’s Disability Lifelines are Badly Eroded When we Need Them Most (February 22, 2021)
Thousands of poor Americans and those with disabilities are missing out on much-needed income benefits during the pandemic. The Social Security Administration recently announced a 22% decrease from January 2020 to January 2021 in the number of people receiving Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, the benefit program available to the very poorest Americans. The drop in the number of new recipients comes in the midst of a devastating public health crisis that has cost hundreds of thousands of jobs, produced unimaginably long food lines, triggered countless family disruptions, and inflicted nearly a half million deaths, many breadwinners among them. All of which seems to suggest many families are in need of more help. But the pandemic combined with public indifference to people with disabilities, a lack of media attention, and punitive government policies initiated in both Democratic and Republican administrations have conspired to give these income lifelines low visibility and a lack of public acceptance when Americans need them the most. “The government says you meet the definition for disability but we’re not going to give you health insurance. It’s very cruel,” says Kate Lang, a senior staff attorney with the advocacy group Justice in Aging. She adds that some people may be able to get Medicaid in their state or qualify for a subsidy under the Affordable Care Act, “but many end up without any health insurance coverage while they are waiting.”
The opportunity to live with dignity, regardless of financial circumstances—free from the worry, harm, and injustice caused by lack of health care, food, or a safe place to sleep. By using the power of law to strengthen the social safety net, and remove the barriers low-income seniors face in trying to access the services they need, we work to ensure the future we all envision for our loved ones and ourselves.