Lahmann: Getting help with disabilities isn’t easy |

Lahmann: Getting help with disabilities isn’t easy

Sandy Lahmann
Disability 101

Social Security Disability, food stamps, welfare … real or myth? Yes, there are such programs in existence. Yes, there are lengthy applications, and many government employees are paid to process applications for these programs.

But do these programs actually provide sufficient benefits to the people they are designed to serve, or is it all lip service?

Perhaps we can feel good about ourselves because we can say we have Social Security Disability for people who really need it. But can people who really need it access it? Can people who really need it survive on the benefits they receive?

One of my readers, whom we will call Glenda to protect privacy, has agreed to share her experiences as a new applicant to Social Security Disability and to other government programs.

Glenda has no income. She previously lost her career because she became physically unable to do it. She went through two other jobs and found that she was physically unable to keep up with those. It’s been two months since Glenda has received any income, and she’s down to her last dime.

She has no health insurance and she has no disability insurance. She already went through her savings paying her medical bills. She lost her house. She has no assets.

Glenda is divorced and has no family members who are in a financial position to help her out. She is disabled with multiple sclerosis. Although she can still walk decently, she frequently is incapacitated by fatigue, nerve pain, bladder issues, vision problems and cognitive and memory problems.

Her goal is to receive Social Security Disability. However, even if she is able to qualify, the most she will ever receive is $637 a month.

Now ask yourself, could you survive on $637 a month?

However, it will be awhile before Glenda will receive this $637 a month benefit. It takes, on average, two years for a person to qualify for Disability. Estimates vary, but somewhere between 70-100 percent of people who apply for Disability are denied on their first attempt. Then an appeal is necessary. Most people need a lawyer.

So, how is Glenda going to survive while she is waiting for her $637 a month from Disability?

Not to worry, the state of Colorado recognizes that it takes too long to qualify for benefits under Social Security and has a program titled Aid to the Needy Disabled (AND), designed to bridge the gap.

So Glenda has started the application process for AND as well. If Glenda is able to receive benefits from AND she will get a total of $250 a month until her Social Security Disability clicks in. However, when she does start receiving her Disability payments, she will have to repay the money she received from AND.

Now ask yourself, could you survive on $250 a month?

So Glenda is trying to piece together other government programs to assist her. More applications.

Glenda wanted to apply for subsidized housing. However, in her community in Colorado there is a two-year waiting list, and they are not putting new names on the list at this time.

Glenda has applied for food stamps and has just been approved. She is receiving the full benefit available of $176 a month. However, keep in mind that food stamps does not allow purchases of things like toilet paper or toothpaste.

Glenda looked for other government programs to apply for, but there isn’t any. There are additional programs for people with dependent children but Glenda doesn’t have dependent children.

How is Glenda going to survive? How would you? More on the application process next time.

Sandy Lahmann, a previous Frisco resident now temporarily lost on the Front Range, can be e-mailed at

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