I was 13 years old when I got my first job. I went to my elementary school’s office and requested a work permit; the woman there stamped a small yellow index card with something very official, and handed it over to me. It said I could work four hours a week, and I was ready for every minute. I walked to every store and restaurant in our town, and time after time, no one would hire me. It was very discouraging. I didn’t give up, though. I walked to the furthest edge of our town to Kentucky Fried Chicken and filled out another application. The owner, a wonderful man named Mr. Smith, took me very seriously, saw my potential, and offered me a job.
That began a very long career of many jobs, moves, and attempts. My career started off so promising; I had the world at my fingertips. However, due to a perfect storm of events, I found myself living in active addiction. I was at my lowest point, pregnant, with nowhere to go, and a lot of trauma to work through. I tried many times to find my way, and I needed help.
With determination and the assistance of my country (and the good people of the Social Security Administration (SSA)), I changed my story. I have added many successes, triumphs, and things to be grateful for.
Most recently, with help from the Work Without Limits Employment Network, I have now returned to the workforce after almost a decade of receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. I used these benefits to get the treatment I so desperately needed after a long battle with addiction and to get on my feet and become stable. I am proud to say that I am eight years sober and no longer taking the medication I needed to get here.
Before working with SSA’s “Ticket to Work” program, I feared losing my public health insurance and SSDI benefits. I was unsure how to transition from being an unemployed person with a disability to becoming gainfully employed and independent. I was assigned a very knowledgeable and helpful counselor from the Work Without Limits Employment Network. She guided me through the steps necessary to report my new income correctly and acted as a liaison between me and SSA, helping me to step into this new phase of my life without experiencing a gap in coverage. During that time, I had been diagnosed with breast cancer and began undergoing treatment, so having health insurance literally saved my life. I was able to fully recover while being able to work and without the fear of being denied the care I needed.
The job that I was so fortunate to find, as my first step back into the workforce, utilized all my best skills and was tailor-fit for me. I have been incredibly successful and because of that, I was able to make a difference in other people's lives. I helped pay for surgery to save a recently widowed woman’s dog and paid off a car note for a good friend who was sick and needed that car to get to her medical appointments but was at risk of losing it. I could commit random acts of kindness because I was financially able to give back to the community that graciously gave me so much.
Because of the support from SSA and Work Without Limits, I am a fantastic mother today. I am a great partner and friend, a reliable employee, a taxpayer, and a productive member of society. I can help other women who are in need.
And because of what SSA and Work Without Limits gave me, I am alive today to tell my story.
Because of what SSA and Work Without Limits gave me...
I am a fantastic mother today.
I am a great partner and friend.
I am a reliable employee, as well as a taxpayer.
I am a productive member of society.
I can help other women who are in need.
I am alive today to tell my story!