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Blind man relies on charity, SSD to get by, but still keeps hope

For one man who now lives on Social Security and donations from various charities, a lot has changed in just three years.

In 2008, he was the top producer at an executive recruiting agency. When late-onset diabetes started affecting his health, he lost sight in his right eye and began having seizures. He had already lost his job because of the declining economy, but a seizure that caused an expensive hospital stay caused him to lose his unemployment benefits. His former employer contested his benefits, and due to a compression fracture in his spine, he could not attend the hearing and lost by default.

In addition to his health problems, his wife also suffers from a seizure condition and bipolar disorder, which makes it difficult for her to maintain steady employment. Together they receive a total of $1,348 in Social Security disability benefits as well as $240 in food stamps. They moved out of their nice apartment to cut costs. Their rent and bills total approximately $900 each month and were having trouble making ends meet.

They contacted a local organization, which gave them $123 for utilities and $250 toward back rent. They moved into an even cheaper apartment, but were still struggling. They caught the attention of the Neediest Cases Fund, which gave them an additional $780 for five months.

Now, the man's vision has deteriorated so that he cannot leave the house alone. He is almost blind in his left eye and has cataracts. However, he still hopes to return to work. He is working with an employment counselor at a vocational and training agency for the blind. If he is hired, the State Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped will install voice dictation software at his office at no cost.

This man's story shows just how important disability benefits are to those who truly need it. Although he and his wife still struggled to make ends meet, had they not had the nearly $1,350 a month in disability benefits, things may have been even worse. If you or someone you love is disabled and can't work, seeking Social Security disability benefits is a good option for financial relief.

Source: The New York Times, "In Brooklyn, Surviving Loss of Job and Sight," Jed Lipinski, Nov. 30, 2011

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