April 10, 2015
A Colorado teen with a rare genetic disease has been so successful with his fundraising efforts that he may be in danger of losing medical benefits, which would force his family to pay out of pocket.
"We may need to pause or stop the gofundme account," Kera Niehus wrote on Austin's page. "Austin is on SSI which is his disability stuff and gets Medicaid through them, with all of your awesome, generous donations, unfortunately he could [lose] these benefits, and that means everything comes out of pocket which could be a huge bummer."
While People was unable to get direct comments regarding the technicalities of Austin's case, some clarification was provided by a spokeswoman for the Social Security Administration.
"The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program pays benefits to disabled adults and children who have limited income and resources," Nicole Tiggeman said in an email. "The law requires Social Security to consider the income and resources of the individual, parents or spouses when deciding an SSI recipient’s initial and continuing eligibility to SSI benefits."
According to Tiggeman, the resource limit for an individual in 2015 was $2,000.
Kera has hired an attorney with the hope that a special needs trust fund can be established for Austin, but is unsure whether this approach will work.
Though the cost of Austin's surgery is not specified, his case raises an important conflict that can occur in cases when crowdfunding is used to help those who need it the most.
For Kera, Austin's video was a lifesaver in its own right. She explains to People that just as she was planning to shut down the GoFundMe account, she received an e-mail from a suicidal teenager who informed her that Austin's story convinced her not to go through with it. The girl's parents later donated $500.
Read the full story from People.