Social Security Disability – “A system in crisis” - CBS News

The Social Security Administration offers two programs for disabled Americans – Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) meant for workers who have contributed to Social Security through payroll taxes, and Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) which is a separate means-tested program for needy children and disabled adults administered jointly by the SSA and the state the applicant lives in. SSDI is an insurance benefit earned by working, and SSI is generally available only to those with very limited income and very few financial assets. While both are considered a “disability” program, they are separate and distinct from each other, with unique qualification rules and different levels of benefits available to those approved. While the process of applying for either SSDI or SSI is relatively straight forward, becoming approved for benefits under both programs has become something of a nightmare for many.

For many years, the Social Security Administration has struggled to provide good customer service, a result of ongoing Congressional pressure to cut costs. More recently those issues were exacerbated by pandemic-induced workplace restrictions and staff losses through retirement. In other words, the pandemic made an already bad situation worse, especially as relates to processing of disability applications. Statistically, about 60% of all SSI applications and about 66% of all SSDI applications are initially denied, and even getting that determination can take more than 6 months. An appeal process for denied applications is available, but just going through the appeal process can take years with no guarantee of success. Those who are seeking assistance and at least eligible for Social Security often cannot afford to wait and must claim their Social Security retirement benefit early. Claiming Social Security retirement benefits early means a benefit reduced by as much as 30% from what it might otherwise be, thus forcing many to suffer financially as a result of Social Security’s inability to process disability claims in a timely fashion. “A system in crisis” is how this situation is characterized in this CBS News article by Fred Clasen-Kelly.

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