In 2015, I fell 25 feet (7.6 metres) from a Redwood tree and was in a coma for 10 days.
I spent the rest of that year using an arm crutch and went through four months of outpatient rehabilitation. Nine months later, I had eye muscle surgery to correct double vision that resulted from damage to my occipital lobe. Five years later, I still suffer from fine motor deficits, balance issues, and have trouble with my memory and speech.
My first application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) – a government grant which provides health insurance and a monthly allotment of money for people with disabilities to live on – was filled out on my behalf by my parents.
I have no recollection of it and my short-term memory is still impaired.
I do recall the Social Security Administration (SSA) scheduling an initial assessment with a neuropsychologist – a full-time real estate agent who saw patients on the side – in 2015. He met with me in his tiny real estate office located in a business park with no medical facilities nearby. This was my first warning sign that the SSA’s disability operation was not what it should be.
Navigating the SSA’s disability process has never been easy, but if President Donald Trump is re-elected, many believe it is only going to get harder. His budget has already proposed cutting about $505bn from Medicare over the next decade and $35bn from SSDI and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. (Democratic nominee Joe Biden has said he will not cut Social Security funding, although his voting record shows he has voted both for and against protecting Social Security over the course of his Senate career.) This could leave an already poor and under-served population even more destitute than they already are.