As the publisher of a website devoted to issues for the disabled, and as one who receives occasional mail from claimants, one thing stands out amazingly loud and clear: too many disability claimants are waiting way too long to get their applications going.
In fact, it's almost stunning how many people are out there in their forties, fifties, even in their late fifties, with significant physical and/or mental impairments and yet have not filed for help.
I don't use the word stunning lightly, either. In the last few years, I've been, in varying capacities, in daily contact with claimants (several thousand). Even prior to becoming an examiner, I had been a medicaid caseworker, taking applications for medicaid that would go to disability determination services for a medical determination Yet, not in any of that time, did I get a clear picture of how many disabled individuals there must be who are not pursuing their benefits.
Why do so many people put off filing for benefits? There are lots of different reasons, I suppose, and one that I can't discount is that a certain percentage of individuals have probably been intimidated by all the "bad stuff" they've heard about the program (high denial rates, files and paperwork getting lost, rude social security employees, etc, etc).
However, I have the strong impression that many potential claimants either do not file or put off filing because A. they feel embarrassed about filing or B. they want to go back to work and are truly hoping their condition will improve to the point that this will become possible.
This is what I would tell a friend, relative, neighbor, and anyone who reads this: if you believe you are disabled, file your application ASAP. Because if your medical condition does indeed prevent you from returning to work, any embarrassment you feel over filing will weigh very little against your immediate financial concerns. And if you're hoping that your condition will improve to the point where you can work again, that's a great attitude...but what if it doesn't. You're always safer and wiser if you hedge your bets.
The federal evaluation system in the U.S. is presently in a "slow-mode" meltdown and (that's just my opinion) and right now, start to finish, it can take up to three years to get through the whole process (initial claim, reconsideration, alj hearing). So, don't THINK about filing. Just FILE.
You may have read in the news that the SSA system is slated for improvement soon. Again, this is just my opinion, but don't count on it. The reform proposals being advocated by the current SSA Commissioner may arguably make things a lot worse for claimants and the process in general.
Commissioner Barnhart's proposals will certainly make the system more hostile and adversarial to claimants. And there's good reason to believe that her proposals will not even speed things up.
They may, in fact, have quite the opposite effect. Please remember that this is the same administration that thought it was ok NOT to pay overtime to people working 50 hours a week as long as they would classified as "working supervisors". It's also the same group that thinks it's ok for individual citizens to be barred from debt relief while individuals occupying the ivory towers (I'm thinking of "The Donald" here) seem to be filing for bankruptcy protection every time you turn around.
I will leave you with this thought. It was under the current SSA Commissioner that HPI was instituted. This was an efficiency program that, instead of bringing efficiency to the disability hearing process actually slowed things down by at least a FACTOR OF THREE (hearings in north Carolina, for example, used to take at most 5 months to get---now they take up to 15-24 months, depending on what OHA you have to deal with).
To reiterate: If you are disabled, don't think about filing. Just file and get it done.
The author of this article is Timothy Moore, who, in addition to being a former food stamp caseworker, medicaid caseworker and AFDC caseworker, is a former disability claims examiner. He publishes information at Social Security Disability Tips and Secrets which features a helpful and informative Social Security Disability faq
Tuesday, 06 April 2010 05:45
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