Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Back in My Hometown of Houston

Hi VSA Texas friends! It’s your Artworks Director April Sullivan here, and I will be traveling to Houston this week to host the Artist Market at the annual Abilities Expo. This is one of my favorite events of the year because we get a chance to serve our Houston artists with disabilities on their home turf… and mine!

I was born in Houston and grew up there until I moved to Austin to go to UT. And you know how that goes – once you move to Austin, you stay! But I still really love Houston and the art scene there. So it is always a pleasure to travel back and visit the galleries and museums. But I will only have a little bit of time for that this week, as I will be spending most of my time at the NRG Center July 31-Aug 2 with six wonderful artists, showing and selling their work to a crowd of people, learning all about the latest and greatest in accessible vehicles, software, tools, and gadgets.

Visit the VSA Texas Artist Market at Booths 436 & 437

We have a great group of artists this year. Back with new work and prints of their all-time favorites are Grant Manier, teenage Eco-Artist, and Brian Dodd of Doddman Gallery. While their art is very different in style, these artists have a few things in common: both have autism and dedicated mothers who help them market their art.

"Night and Day" by Grant Manier  

"General Train Arms Jim" by Brian Dodd

Also joining us this year, after a short hiatus, is author Ron Hull. He will practically be giving his books away this year! So don’t miss his great works of science fiction and his newest work, an autobiography. All signed by Ron in person.

Two women artists, who debuted at the Abilities Expo last year, are back: Lesa Jackson and Una Lau. Lesa paints fun colorful images of peace and love. Una, however, will be selling unique wooden boxes and prints of her poetry paired with her brother’s photographs of Hawaii.

And new to the Artist Market this year is David Sulak from Louise, TX. His autism and OCD make it hard for him to travel, so he has entrusted me with his drawings and construction pieces. Prepare to be wowed by his simple yet detailed style (see below).

“Cars and Trucks” by David Sulak

To learn more about these artists, visit the Artist Market page on the Abilities Expo website here:

We look forward to seeing you at the Abilities Expo this year!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Everything You Need to Know About Social Security Disability Benefits

This week is the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For some people, the signing of the ADA was a great moment of change. For younger people, born after the signing of the ADA, this anniversary is a reminder of the rights they have always had, and thoughts of what is still needed. What about those who are new to the disability community? Where do they start? Guest blogger Deanna Power has some great information for us!

Deanna Power is the Community Outreach Manager at Social Security Disability Help in Boston, MA. After volunteering with Best Buddies throughout college, she realized she wanted to work with people with disabilities. She now assists people of all ages wade through the Social Security Administration’s paperwork and apply for disability benefits. In addition to adding and improving content on Social Security Disability Help, she contributes articles to organizations dedicated to creating an inclusive world for people with disabilities. She has been featured on, The National Down Syndrome Society, and Autism Speaks.

Filing For Social Security Disability Benefits in Texas

If you are disabled and need help paying for medical treatment, housing, and your day-to-day living expenses, there is financial assistance available. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers benefits for people with disabilities who are unable to work.

What Disability Benefits are Available?

The Social Security Administration offers two forms of disability benefits: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Both programs are for people with long-term disabilities, but qualifying for each is different.

To qualify for SSDI, you must be an adult age 18 and over with a rich work history. Taxpayers fund SSDI, so you will need to pay into FICA taxes to qualify for SSDI. In 2015, the current maximum SSDI benefit is $2,663 per month.

SSI is for people of all ages. You do not need a work history to qualify for SSI, but there are financial limitations. An individual applying for SSI benefits cannot have more than $2,000 in assets, or $3,000 if an applicant is married. Assets include cash, stocks, bonds, life insurance, etc. The SSA does NOT count a primary home and one vehicle as assets when evaluating SSI applicants.

How to Qualify for Disability Benefits

When evaluating every disability application, the SSA will use a medical guide called the Blue Book. The Blue Book outlines what symptoms must be present for an applicant to qualify for any given condition.

If your disability is rare and isn’t listed in the Blue Book, you can still qualify by meeting symptoms listed for other disabilities.

Finally, you can qualify via an RFC analysis. An RFC analysis is a questionnaire that looks at how your disability affects your ability to perform day-to-day activities.

Health Insurance and Social Security Benefits

After being approved for disability benefits, SSDI recipients will receive Medicare in 24 months.

Medicaid applications are regulated by states, not the government. In Texas, if you are approved for SSI benefits, you will automatically be enrolled for Medicaid. The state will contact you with additional information after you receive your SSI acceptance letter.

How to Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits

SSDI applicants can complete the application form entirely online. SSI applicants can begin the paperwork online, but must schedule an appointment with a local SSA office. Texas has over 70 SSA field offices. Here are some of the biggest ones:

Houston: 16200 Dillard Dr., Houston, TX 77040
San Antonio: 8020 Alamo Downs Pkwy, San Antonio, TX 78238
Dallas: 1070 N Westmoreland, Suite 100, Dallas, TX 75211
Austin: 1029 Camino La Costa, Austin, TX 78752
El Paso: 600 Texas Ave, El Paso, TX 79901

To schedule an appointment with your local SSA office in Texas, call the SSA toll-free at 

I hope you all found this information helpful. Happy ADA Anniversary!