People in the disabled community would like their chance to have legally binding marriages without crippling themselves or their partners financially. Many people are not even aware that an issue even exists concerning this topic but it does, and it’s huge. Whether to legally marry a partner presents one of the most difficult decisions a person with a disability can make, regardless of the amount of love in the relationship.
Living with a disability requires having access to significant financial resources. A person considered permanently disabled (unable to work due to a disability) is typically eligible for SSI funds and Medicaid. Medicaid is not the greatest insurance option when it comes to doctor choice and prescription options, but for those truly in need it is a lifesaver. The savings on medications and doctor copays alone make it possible for the disabled to make rent payments, pay their electric bills, or any other number of the expenses everyone must to pay to enjoy a somewhat comfortable existence. SSI checks (different from ‘Welfare’) provide the bare minimum that a person could be expected to live on.
Currently if an individual entitled to SSI and Medicaid benefits falls in love and marries, the disabled partner can easily lose their benefits because they will now be classified as a dependent of their spouse. When two become one in the eyes of the law, the income of the couple gets joined as well. The employed partner’s income counts against the disabled spouse, just as if they earned it themselves.
Expenses involved in caring for someone with a terminal illness can often consume the entire salary of the employed partner, and then some, even if the employed partner has decent medical insurance. A single prescription can eat a paycheck, and one hospitalization can lead to bankruptcy.
If two permanently disabled people fall in love with each other, they experience financial penalties from the government as well, should they tie the knot. Their two checks will become one as well, with a significantly lower total.
As you can clearly see, unless you are disabled and wealthy, or are marrying a person of considerable means, there are difficult circumstances the disabled must deal with before deciding to make their love official. This situation is leading to a rise in unofficial ‘commitment ceremonies’ and the like as people try to do the right thing by their God, their friends and family, but not necessarily the state and federal governments. At a time in American history where the nation is actively tearing down barriers that have long kept lovers from legally marrying, we should remember disabled people and their plight as well.