Timothy Elliot, a Black man who uses a wheelchair, wearing a white jacket and a black rimmed hat

Helping Disabled Veterans with Spending and Saving Habits

In recognition of Veterans Day, The LEAD Center is pleased to release “Helping Disabled Veterans with Spending and Saving Habits.” Written by disabled Navy Veteran, Timothy Elliot, this blog explains the obstacles disabled people may face when deciding to pursue employment. The blog also explains how the Securing Your Financial Future toolkit helped Timothy take a hard look at his financial decisions and learn how to best plan for retirement.

My name is Timothy Elliott, and I live in Brooklyn, New York. I’m a 53-year-old, African American, disabled veteran of the United States Navy. I’ve been disabled since 1991 due to Spinal Meningitis. I currently use a motorized chair to get around. I learned about the financial toolkit from the ABLE National Resource Center where I’ve been an ABLE Ambassador since 2020.

It took me 10 years to start working again after my disability. I didn’t think that I had anything to contribute as an employee to any employer due to my disability, but I proved myself wrong! Since 2001, I’ve held various jobs, and some concurrently. I’ve worked as a real estate agent for 12 years and a mortgage consultant for 6 years. I’ve been working at my current part-time non-profit job for 19 years, and also have had a full-time job for the last 9 years.

As a disabled person, pursuing employment comes with obstacles. I worried about losing my Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and Medicaid; not making enough money to pay my bills; and losing my employment and having to start over with benefits. My attitude, however, was that if I can earn more than I was receiving from SSDI/SSI, then it was worth giving employment a shot. In 2003, when I was seeking employment, the Medicaid Buy-In for Working People with Disabilities became available, which allowed me to earn higher wages and keep my Medicaid benefits.

The pandemic presented an entirely new obstacle for me to worry about. How would I keep my jobs as everyone started to work remotely? Luckily, both of my jobs involved doing my work on computers and using the telephone and that allowed me to work from home. It also showed me the importance of having a backup plan to my backup plan. This is where the financial toolkit comes in handy for those of us trying to maintain our employment and sustain our financial independence. The toolkit is beneficial to help keep you focused on your needs and goals when it comes to the money you’ve earned and saved.

I’m currently using the Savings Fitness Worksheets resource in the financial toolkit. It allows me to see my current financial status and practice adjusting my savings and ABLE accounts to see what effect it would have on my take home income. It also allows me to see if I can increase the deductions from my paycheck into my second retirement account. This is one of the most valuable tools for me, as retirement is getting closer. I’m able to input numbers to see if I’m saving enough for the lifestyle I want to have after retirement, depending on where I choose to live. I don’t think many people with disabilities give this enough thought or consider whether Social Security will be enough to support them during retirement. Through my work as an ABLE Ambassador, I will be teaching other people how to use the different parts of the financial toolkit to gain a better understanding of how to manage their finances.

About the Author

Timothy Elliott is a disabled Navy Veteran working in New York City for the Self-Advocacy Association of New York, where he mentors and teaches individuals with developmental disabilities to advocate for themselves and others. He also works for the state of New York, helping individuals and families find affordable, accessible housing. Since 2020, he has been serving as an ABLE Ambassador, for ABLE NRC, teaching individuals with disabilities about ABLE accounts and their benefits.