Many of us struggle with serious poverty caused by benzodiazepine harm. Disabled and unable to work, we still must find avenues to keep ourselves from homelessness and starvation. Many of us are too sick to spend a lot of time finding these resources, so I have compiled a list of some of the options in the United States that can potentially provide assistance. Should you know of or come across another resource that you consider useful, please let me know! I can update this blog as more resources are found.
A good first stop for finding potential benefits is the US federal government’s benefit finder:
SSDI vs. SSI Disability
There are two types of disability benefits in the United States: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSDI is insurance, meaning you have paid into it while working and can collect on your payment if you become disabled. SSDI recipients receive Medicare, which kicks in two years after the first month you’re eligible to receive SSDI benefits. Most SSDI recipients receive between $800 and $1,800 per month, with the exact amount determined by several factors.
SSI, on the other hand, is welfare, meaning it is not earned through work credits, and recipients cannot have assets above a certain amount in order to qualify. SSI recipients receive Medicaid instead of Medicare. SSI has a standard base rate of $771 per month, but most SSI recipients receive less than that federal benefit rate, while some receive more.
There are some other differences between the two programs: SSDI recipients can earn a part-time income up to a certain amount, while SSI recipients cannot. Those who are receiving SSDI can continue to receive their benefits while living overseas, while SSI recipients are not able to.
Applying for Disability
The application process for SSDI benefits (and, depending on the state, SSI benefits as well) can be long, taking several months to several years. Unfortunately, the outcome is often dependent on which state the applicant resides in and, if required to appeal, which judge the applicant is assigned. DisabilityJudges.com has compiled a list of all the Administrative Law Judges and their outcomes. For an overview of how the application process works, please review the Social Security Administration’s Sequential Disability Determination Steps.
You may consider consulting with an attorney to help you through this process. Disability lawyers are familiar with the application process and can assist in deciding the best way to present and win your case. Most disability attorneys do not charge upfront, but will take a percentage of your initial winnings should you be found disabled. Many disability lawyers, especially those working pro bono, will not take a case until it has already been denied (which commonly happens) and is being appealed, so you may need to file the initial application on your own.
Please note that while benzodiazepine harm is not recognized by SSDI or SSI, many of the complications arising from it are. In addition, some people choose to include the diagnosis that caused them to be prescribed a benzodiazepine, whether or not they believe the diagnosis is accurate. You will need to have a doctor testify in writing that you have been disabled or will be disabled for at least twelve months. You can review a list of all Social Security approved impairments here.
To start the disability process on your own, click the button below:
Medicare and Medicaid
Medicare is available to people who are age 65 or older, as well as to certain younger people who have disabilities (e.g., those receiving SSDI). Medicaid covers eligible low-income adults, children, pregnant women, elderly adults, and people with disabilities. Medicaid rules vary by state. To learn about your state’s rules, click the button below:
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP (formerly known as food stamps)
While the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is federal, each state’s program is managed individually, so you should apply to your state for assistance. Here is a tool that will direct you to your state’s SNAP application page:
Food banks offer food staples and meal programs. Find one in your area using this tool:
Food Delivery and Restaurants
Schwan’s and Amazon can deliver food to your home, and in many areas both services accept EBT (SNAP) cards. Amazon offers discounted Prime memberships for those receiving Medicaid or SNAP. (Don’t forget to choose Benzodiazepine Information Coalition as your Amazon Smile charity!)
Meals on Wheels provides free or discounted meals delivered to your home if you are over 60.
According to LowIncomeRelief.com, some fast-food restaurants in some cities and states accept EBT cards. See the full list here.
There is a certain amount of government housing available for people with low income or disabilities. Availability varies by state, and there is often a waiting list. Check out this benefit tool to see what is available in your area:
Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) assists eligible low-income households with their heating and cooling energy costs. This benefit can be difficult to qualify for in some areas, but please check the tool below to see the process for your state:
Free Cell Phone Service
The United States offers a Lifeline Program. This allows those that qualify to receive a set amount of free monthly texting, web browsing, and call minutes. Some programs provide recipients with an Android cell phone, and some participating phone companies allow you to use your own phone. Qualifying for the program is based on certain guidelines that may be viewed here. Find the carriers serving your area and apply to them directly using this tool:
Reduced Cost Internet Service
AT&T, Comcast and Cox Connect all offer reduced cost internet service. The requirements to qualify vary by company. Check them out:
Student Loan Debt Discharge
Did you know that people experiencing a long-term or permanent disability may be able to have their student loans discharged? The disability can be certified in a few ways, including a short form certified by your doctor:
While benzodiazepines are generic and usually pretty cheap, many of us who are harmed find ourselves on multiple medications, and the cost can add up. The cost of filling medications can vary from pharmacy to pharmacy, sometimes quite significantly, so comparison shopping can pay off.
In addition, many pharmaceutical companies offer discounts or free medication to needy patients (including, in some cases, patients who don’t have insurance!). This is more commonly offered for brand-name medications than for generic ones, so if your generic drug still has an available brand name, it may be worth switching. Needy Meds provides a tool that compares medication costs by pharmacy, a listing of pharmacy programs offering discounted or free medication, and a discount card to use at the pharmacy:
Beyond medication costs, Needy Meds also offers a tool for finding free, sliding-scale, or reduced-cost clinics in your area. Be sure to call ahead, as many clinics will not prescribe benzodiazepines.
Janice Curle was working on her Masters in Clinical Psychology when she became disabled by taking Ativan as prescribed by her physician. She founded Benzodiazepine Information Coalition in 2016 to facilitate awareness, education, research and change.