Posted on October 24, 2011 · Posted in TBI Voices
This entry is part 9 of 20 in the series Steven

Lost in Our Disability System: Steven Part Nine

Steven and discussed the extent of his injuries. It took Steven five and a half years to get social security disability.  A prime example of being lost in our disability system.

As I understand it you were a triple trauma individual: You had significant physical injuries; you had a significant brain injury that caused you to be in a coma; and at the same time you had a stroke.  


So you have every system in your body’s basically being assaulted by this accident or the things that happened secondary to it.  Yet two or three months after that your insurance ends and you get lost in our disability system, basically you’re sent off  to fend for yourself.  I assume you didn’t have a lot of money saved at the time of your accident?

No it was, like I said the, my bank account was wiped out pretty much before I got sent back home.

And it takes you 5 ½ years to get Social Security because you got lost in our disability system?

Yes sir.

How did you survive? What were you living on?  How did you eat?

Yeah that one was something I think about a lot of time.  I really don’t know. The first couple of years or so, about three maybe, I was living off of probably $160.00 a month in food stamps that the Congressman that we had to call at the time had me approved for because DHS wouldn’t give them to me and we had to call him to get them.

And then after I went homeless the first time I ended up leaving Memphis and went to Tipton County. I had got involved with vocational rehabilitation in Memphis.  They transferred my case to Tipton County and I got myself into a technology center and the vocational rehabilitation paid my tuition per trimester or whatever it is that we did.  And so that allowed me the leftover financial aid which ended up being maybe $1,700.00 every four months or so and I lived off of right at $5,000.00 to maybe a couple hundred dollars less than $5,000.00 a year.

How long were you at the technology center being lost in our disability system, before you got the Social Security disability?

I got it pretty much like probably the month I was graduating. And I was freaking out trying to figure out what I was going to do because I wasn’t going to be able to make a living at what I’d been trained to do.

How long were you at the technology center? 

The course I think, it was right at two years.

So even though your local or state Department of Vocational Rehabilitation was paying for you to be retrained because of your disabilities, Social Security was denying that you had any and you were still lost in our disability system?

Right.  I was so discouraged when it says, when the first part of the letter says we are denying your disability claim and like I said I was told I don’t remember which one it was, the first or second time that I was too smart to be considered disabled. I know during one of the hearings they were saying oh well you can find a job sitting somewhere watching a monitor.  But, you know, where could I have done that and really I can’t sit that long and this (meaning being interviewed) is actually starting to bother me a little bit.


Later in Steven’s story, we will discuss the state of his current disability.  Fortunately, Steven did get to the Technology Center, where things started to improve even with being lost in our disability system .

Next in Part Ten – Opportunity for School Re-Opened the World After Severe Brain Injury

By Attorney Gordon Johnson


About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447