Aug 1, 2007

Help is NOT on the way

On July 29, 2007, USA Today ran stories: Disabled worker cases at record and Disability delays can lead to personal havoc, about the lengthy delays individuals have to wait for Social Security disability claims. The articles included a list of the Social Security Administration offices with the shortest and longest average waits for hearings on whether an applicant is too disabled to work, which included on the longest waits: Columbus with 841 days and Dayton with 735 days.

In Ohio, this means an average wait of 2 to 2 ½ years for determination; one of the slowest states in the nation. Not only is this havoc for the applicants, but for their families, many of which have dependent children. Families waiting for Social Security determinations are forced to rely on cash assistance (Ohio Works First) benefits from the state in the meantime. But living on cash assistance in Ohio, means living well below the poverty level; and in Ohio, there is a lifetime limit of 36 months for cash assistance benefits – which is likely to run out before disability determination is made. A typical family of three receiving OWF benefits would receive a maximum of $410 a month (Federal Poverty Level for family of three is $1431 per month).

For these families life is a constant struggle to meet basic needs. In Athens County, nearly one-third of the adults receiving OWF assistance have some serious disability. And, their family struggles are further compounded by the fact that the one or more caretakers in these families are disabled and trying to care for children while trying to deal with their own disabilities.
From the article, Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue says the backlog of cases doubled in six years and could reach 1 million by 2010. Clearly, no help is on the way.

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