When a Twitter user shared her disabled grandparents' story about losing their benefits, the social media platform went into a tizzy.
In countries across the world, disabled folks are eligible to receive various benefits from the government in order to overcome the challenges they face in a society built only for abled folk. This is probably not news to you. In fact, it's probably not even controversial. However, here's something that might be both those things. What most of us probably don't know is that if a disabled person gets married, they may no longer be eligible to receive those benefits, ultimately making them their partner's "burden." After the hashtag #CantMarryMyLove went viral on social media platform Twitter, thousands of disabled individuals from all over the world have shared their terrible experiences and called for equitable action from their respective governments.
The hashtag began trending when Twitter user ZenMeoww took to the social media platform to share her grandparents' "love" story. She wrote, "My grandma and grandpa are both disabled. They have been together [for over] 50 years. They've never been able to live together. I remember asking why they couldn't get married when I was a child. My mom would say, 'The government will not let them because of disability.'" Her grandfather became disabled from the waist down in his 20s when, as a "ridiculously overworked" semi-truck driver, he fell asleep at the wheel and suffered an accident. Her grandmother, on the other hand, became disabled "after working for years on concrete floors as a cosmetology educator... She slipped in a puddle of water." Despite multiple spinal surgeries, doctors were unable to help her. Both her grandparents had struggled for years and through multiple attempts in order to get approved for disability benefits. One day, the family was dining out together at a Mexican restaurant when someone reported them to the social security department. They informed them that the couple was "holding out as married and had a child together." Because of this individual, ZoeMeoww's grandad "almost lost everything."
The majority of disabled folx who rely on SSI in order to stay alive would lose the meager & pathetic excuse for an income SSA provides, as well as, potentially, their healthcare if SSA determines they're holding themselves out as married. pic.twitter.com/LZJDtZXJU2— Matthew Cortland, Esq. (@mattbc) July 30, 2018
This Twitter user's story is only one of many thousands. Others responded to her tweets, sharing their own plights. BuniDoom revealed, "My story is a bit different. I did marry my love. And now I can't get healthcare. I can't get benefits or disability... I didn't know all this when we got married, and we've talked about divorce a lot because of it. My health suffers a lot because of it." Hmkerstetter posted, "One of the toughest things for me to come to terms with as a disabled person is that I #CantMarryMyLove. It makes me hesitant to look for the kind of love I deserve because according to the government, I’m not worthy of it." Pointing out the intersectionality of oppression, UntoNuggan added, "When I first found out I'd lose my disability benefits if I got married, it wasn't a shock. I'm gay and marriage wasn't legal anyway It hit me hard when gay marriage was legalized. Everyone was celebrating, I still couldn't get married."
My partner and I have talked about getting married, but we are both on disability payments so I #CantMarryMyLove. We even have to be careful that people don’t think of us as married in case social security investigates our relationship. pic.twitter.com/WvAjC6Da4C— RL Bartlett - Writer (@bartlettwriting) December 9, 2019
According to DisabilitySecrets.com, it is true that a disabled person stands to lose their benefits if they choose to get married. This applies specifically to those disabled folk whose partners earn an income. The website reads, "Marriage itself doesn’t affect your eligibility for SSI [Supplemental Security Income] benefits, but if your new husband or wife has income, Social Security will deem some of his or her income to you, which might reduce or end your benefits." A multitude of variables apply to this, of course, such as what kind of benefits you receive and who you marry, but there is no doubt that this policy is ableist violence. And our governments need to do better for disabled folk.