Backlog and staffing problems hinder disability applications

The idea behind disability benefits for illness is to provide for those whose medical issues have left them unable to work. Missouri residents who believe they qualify for Social Security disability benefits should not hesitate to apply for them. However, it is also important to understand that there are certain problems that have arisen for other applicants. One is when a person has all the requirements to receive SSD benefits for illness, but is stymied by a backlog of cases the Social Security Administration has yet to hear.

A 53-year-old woman is suffering from tumors and cysts that have rendered her blind in one eye, damaged her memory and resulted in seizures. The medical problems and medications she takes to treat them have harmed her short-term memory. Even with these clear problems and medical documentation that they exist, she has not been able to get an approval for disability benefits. The reason for her failure to get benefits is believed to be a lack of funding for staff to hear and process all the applications for benefits.

Statistically, 8,000 people died during the fiscal year for 2016 because they were waiting for a hearing to determine whether they would receive disability benefits or not. Others lost their homes or were evicted. Some are not able to purchase their medications. While the SSA is hiring more people, the number is not vast. The programs that are available for applicants are being flooded with applications, and without enough workers to process them, it has led to a backlog and the denial of applications that might otherwise have been approved. By June of 2016, the average amount of time it takes to process an application has reached 530 days. In Missouri, the chance of being approved for benefits by an administrative law judge is 38 percent.

The woman worked from age 15 and paid into the system long enough to be eligible for SSDI. With her illness, she has seen her income decline to almost nothing and she has medical expenses and lost her home. She is awaiting another hearing. Regardless of the reason for the wait, those who are suffering from an illness need to know that they have rights to seek disability. Discussing a case with an attorney is a step to try and expedite the hearing and know what to do if there are obstacles preventing it.

Source:, “‘This is not the American dream,’ says woman turned destitute waiting for disability,” Eric Adler, March 19, 2017

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