Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Social Insecurity

Disabled? Can't work? Your doctor says you will never improve. Your boss won't let you come back even if you wanted to. No one is willing to hire you.

Surely you must qualify for disability. Right?

Fat chance.

Don't have disability coverage through your job or personally? Might as well go for SSDI (Social Security Disability Income).

Take a number. In fact, your number is 2,500,001.

Every year 2,500,000 apply for SSDI.

It gets worse.

Of 2.5 million people who file disability claims annually, nearly two in three get denied initially. If they pursue a federal hearing, they join about 745,000 others whose appeals are backlogged.

So who get's approved?

Not these folks!

Jason Hoaks was a corrections officer in Wyoming when he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in 2002. He suffered a stroke during surgery that resulted in vision problems, the loss of strength and sensation on his right side, memory loss and depression. He applied for Social Security disability benefits and was denied.

Brain tumor. Stroke. Seems like these should be a slam dunk.

Houston, 46, says he was injured in 1999 when 32 sheets of plate glass fell on him, shattering his shoulder. He says he suffers from congestive heart failure, chronic diabetes, asthma, phlebitis, sleep apnea and deteriorating discs in his back. Yet a judge assigned to his case ruled in 2003 that he could be a parking lot attendant.

Congestive heart failure. Diabetes. Discs.

Yep, you probably could be a parking lot attendant.

But let's say you like a challenge. You think you can beat the odds. How long before you are awarded the benefit?

As of June, their average wait for a decision was 529 days

How long is 529 days?

One and a half years.

That's 18 months without a paycheck.

Can't wait that long? Don't live in Atlanta. The wait is 932 days. Want a short wait? Move to Harrisburg, PA. The wait is only 276 days.

So what do you do while you are waiting on the appeal?

"People are living in cars. People are going from one family member to the next," says Matt Greenbaum, a New Orleans lawyer who has represented disability claimants for 30 years. "I had a hearing the other day where the judge asked him his address. He couldn't give an address because he didn't have one."

No address. Bet he doesn't have a phone either.

So how is Social Insecurity going to let him know the status of his appeal? Maybe they will send Ed McMahon out . . .

But once you receive the award, you get to keep your benefits, right?

Not so fast.

Katie Probst was awarded benefits in 1991 for her lupus and depression but lost them five years later. The Clayton, N.C., woman got them reinstated, only to be told in 2001 that she had collected them improperly and owed more than $50,000. It took five years to win her appeal, during which time her husband worked seven days a week. "It was like starting over," Probst, 52, says. "I still had to prove to them that I was sick."

Debbie Cline, 45, of Loganville, Ga., waited three years to collect insurance for bipolar and manic depression. She became homeless and moved back in with her ex-husband. "They just keep you waiting like you're a puppet," she says.

Moving back in with the ex. That's almost as bad as moving back with mom & dad.

Sounds like the Social Insecurity Administration isn't doing a very good job of managing assistance for those who need it most.

God help us if we finally get a government run universal health care plan and they turn it over to Social Insecurity to manage.
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