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Andrea J. Waynesboro, VA

Disabled veteran speaks out

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Andrea Jackson joined the United States Army when she was 21 years old. She was deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom in April of 2003 until June 2004.

During her time in Iraq, Andrea was a Chaplain’s Assistant, which entailed boosting morale, but she found herself taking on the role of a counselor to her fellow soldiers in a space of war. Andrea believes that she internalized the problems these soldiers were sharing with her and it took a toll on her. Andrea left the army due to an invisible disability but she knew that there was more for her out there.

Andrea began college at the age of 23 and unfortunately her disability went through more complications and she was no longer able to be a full-time student. She was attending school and paying for it from the Montgomery GI Bill. This was her primary source of income and when she was no longer able to attend school, the income stopped. Andrea found herself trying to pay for her everyday expenses and other expenses with her Veteran’s disability income which was not enough. Because of Andrea’s apprehension about applying for Social Security Disability, it took her 8 months of struggling without the GI Bill before she applied and received Social Security Disability at the age of 26. Since Andrea should have been receiving Social Security when she returned to the states, she was given back pay which she used to return to school and was able to complete school and receive her diploma.

Andrea has always viewed Social Security as a blessing because it allowed her to focus on her disability in order for her to move forward in her life and to become a professional in spite of her disability. She never views her disability status as permanent, but believes it is temporary. She knows that there is so much more she can do and in the meantime, she volunteers about 15 hours a week. She volunteers with Virginia Organizing, a local political party headquarters and at her church. She believes that if you can’t work but you have the physical ability, you should volunteer – which she proudly does.

Andrea is a story that we probably do not hear often. Andrea is in a unique situation because she has an opportunity to be off of Social Security Disability Insurance one day. For many people, this is not an option, and they depend solely on the income from Social Security to survive.

Andrea does not know where she would be without the assistance of this great program. It is important for all people, and especially young people, to realize that one can be diagnosed with a disability at any point in life; not just in the later years. What would people with disabilities do without the assistance of Social Security?