For Tyson, Marriage Changed Everything – Including His SSI
By Tyson from North Carolina
Married people with disabilities often experience penalties that force the couple to give up necessary benefits. Congress must address marriage penalties so everyone has the chance to marry without endangering the key supports they need to live in the community. Tyson is one of the many people with disabilities who have experienced this penalty, and he shares his experience below.
I have been getting Supplemental Security Income (SSI) since I was 19 years old – I’m now 46. These benefits are important to me; they help me pay for things I need, like rent and food. I have always been vigilant to report my earnings and document everything Social Security asked of me.
In 2021, I got married to the love of my life. My wife works for our local school system and is a wonderful partner. I didn’t know, though, that getting married would so greatly impact my SSI.
In late 2021, I got a call from Social Security. It was time to do the regular review, where Social Security asks the same questions over and over to make sure I am sharing all the information and earnings I have. During the call, I shared that I got married, gave them the date and information, and shared my wife’s income information.
Because I got married, I was told that my SSI would be cut from about $800 a month to $500. This was because of my wife’s income. But SSI is my only source of income – and it felt like I was punished for getting married. At the same time, I also found out my rent would increase by $200 a month. So, my wife and I had to do more with even less.
The Social Security office also told me I could get a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefit through my dad’s work record. I spent hours tracking down school records to make sure Social Security had what they needed. Several times, people who worked at Social Security told me I would get SSDI. But, in the end, they rejected my application. I felt like I was lied to and that my time was wasted.
I do my best to pay my bills and live the best life I can. But I am trapped in poverty.
I can’t help that I have a disability, and I want to do more to contribute to our household and have planned to get a part-time job. I am worried that doing this will make me lose my SSI and other benefits. My wife and I have thought about moving to another state to be near other family members, but that may cause me to lose my other benefits, too.
I don’t know what to do – but I know that people should not have to live like this or be punished for marrying the person they love.