Total and Permanent Disability

“Total and Permanent Disability” – that’s the phrase that stopped me in my tracks. Several years ago, I had lost my job as a professor and was trying to make a different sort of life. I couldn’t work and my partner did not make much money, but I was still facing large and looming student loan payments. So I started researching student loan help programs.

I had to declare that I had total and permanent disability to qualify for disability loan forgiveness. On one hand, I knew it was true. I couldn’t work then, and I would never be able to handle a professor’s workload or schedule again. I couldn’t stand on my feet for long enough to get into a service job. My body was too unreliable to hold to a schedule.

Short version of how a TPD discharge works.

But there is something in the words total and permanent. It felt like I was giving up my future. Who knew then what I would be able to do later? Total? There were many things I could still do. I could read short things. I could commit to about 2 hours of a time to work. I could use the step-stool to reach the top shelf. That’s not total. So what if showering is hard. So what if I have to take a nap every day.

Today, I’m trying to build work as a writer. But I cannot work that long or so many hours. So far, in a good week, I make about $100. It’s not much, but it feels odd after declaring I was totally and permanently disabled. I feel like yelling and screaming – “It’s not total! It’s not permanent! See! I’m getting better!”

I have hope. Writing is getting easier and I am slowly building energy. I’m able to work a little more and focus a little better. No. I will never hold a full-time job. But it’s not total.

One off topic thing. When I looked up images online to use for this blog post, nearly everything was a picture of a guy in a wheelchair. No disrespect to my wheelchair friends, but I’m sick and tired of this being used as the only picture of us. It lets people get off thinking they can put in ramps and wide isles and be done with it. (This rant will likely hold for another blog post of diversity of disabilities or invisible disabilities or both.)

And a piece of good news. When I took my loan forgiveness, the entire loan (about $100K) was counted for tax purposes as income. This boosted us into a higher income tax bracket and we had to set up a long-term payment plan to cover $10K+ in taxes. That’s really hitting a gal when she is down. This has changed. Now, this difficult life event is no longer considered income. Thank goodness.

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