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Response To USA Today Social Security Article

Posted on in Social Security Disability

On February 2nd, 2012, USA Today published an article entitled, "Disability Claims Swelling in Recession."  The thrust of the article discussed the recent increase in Social Security disability applications and the financial strain on the system.  Several "quick fixes" were suggested.  One suggestion was to "reshape the application review process."  Re-shaping of the application process is well needed.

In 2009, the allowance rate for Social Security Disability Insurance ("SSDI") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") at the application level was approximately 25%.  In that same year, the approval rates for medical decisions at the reconsideration level was at a miniscule 6%. In other words, the overwhelming majority of claimants suffering from different debilitating conditions are denied disability benefits. Regardless of whether you are suffering from advanced forms of cancer, heart problems, or mental illness, these numbers apply to everyone who wishes to get their benefits.

The USA Today article suggests that many claimants that are approved for disability benefits are undeserving.  While there are extremes in any system, especially a government bureaucracy, the same can be said for those deserving applicants that are routinely denied.  One of my clients, for example, suffers from prostate cancer, HIV, and severe asthma.  He is on chemotherapy and taking a bunch of different medications for his HIV. He also has a number of hospitalizations due to asthma attacks.  Unfortunately, none of his three conditions specifically meets any of the Social Security Administration's regulations.  For this reason, my client was denied, and denied, and denied.  Two and a half years have gone by and he is still appealing. His own doctors all state that he is disabled.

The same can be said for another one of my clients who was fortunate to recently be approved of for disability benefits.  This individual is on the donor list for a heart transplant.  He has desperately needed a new heart for quite some time.  He spends most days in bed too tired and afraid of leaving the house, who knows what would happen. Unfortunately, he fell between the cracks in the system and due to his age and education was deemed "capable of working in some jobs in the economy" and therefore not disabled. My client feared death every day for the passed two years it took to get the benefits he rightfully deserves. He told me on a number of times "I am afraid I will die before I get help, it seems like this is the case for everyone."

The application process needs to be modified.  Too many deserving applicants are forced to go through a lengthy and frustrating process just to have a chance at getting their benefits. Most either give up or are incapable of making it through the process. Change need to be made.

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