Our agency recently released a report regarding the huge backlog and denials for Social Security disability programs. While most of the report is based on the situation in Athens County, there is also evidence that the problem is pervasive throughout the state and the nation. The bottom line is sick and disabled people are not receiving the benefits they are entitled to, in a reasonable amount of time or, in many cases, not at all.
The majority of applications for Social Security disability or SSI are denied at the initial application. Upon requesting a review of their case by a hearing officer, those cases are then largely approved. In Ohio, the average length of time for a denied applicant to receive the opportunity for a hearing is almost two years. With a majority of those applying for disability assistance being denied, this clearly poses a huge challenge in protecting the well-being of our disabled population. One can not help but wonder why we are not able to do a better job determining eligibility accurately in the first place.
The Ohio Medicaid disability determination process utilizes the exact same criteria in determining disability as does the Social Security Administration, yet the majority of Medicaid initial applications are approved. While this process of determining eligibility takes an average of 120 days, they seem to be more likely to get it right than the Social Security Administration, which deals with their initial applications within 90 days. Perhaps if the Social Security Administration provided the same case management support and time frame utilized by Ohio’s Medicaid Program, we could take a step in the right direction to resolve this issue and cut down on unnecessary litigation.
It is of interest that a recent report issued by the USDA regarding Food Stamp recipients indicates that since 2000, the number of Food Stamp recipients with no income has more than doubled. Perhaps this has something to do with the disability applicants who are waiting years to get their benefits and living with no income in the meantime. It is difficult to do justice to the serious personal crisis that this poses for those sick and disabled people who not only wait months to get medical care, but perhaps years to get income support to meet their basic needs.
Is this the way we should or want to treat our sick and disabled people? Our federal and state representatives have known of this problem for years and yet nothing seems to be done to fix the situation.
We need to treat this as the human crisis that it is and react in much the same way as we do with natural disasters. We must use all the resources we can to fix this problem as soon as possible.
[where: Athens, Ohio 45701]