On Tuesday, Top House and Senate Democrats called for a substantial increase in Social Security Administration funding to increase employees, better technology, and expand other investments as the agency deals with a growing backlog of disability claims.
The state Social Security offices, which are located in 50 state capitals, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, have reached a breaking point as workloads have piled up during the coronavirus pandemic, and low-paid employees who process claims have left in droves, leaving positions that have become unsustainable.
In August of this year, the Social Security Administration’s average wait time for an initial disability determination hit an all-time high of more than six months or 198 days. It is nearly three times longer than it was a decade ago.
Furthermore, many people are denied many times. Approximately 65% of all Social Security Disability claims are denied on the first application. If you keep submitting new applications for disability benefits rather than pursuing an appeal, Social Security will continue to deny your application. According to AARP, the average disability applicant now waits more than two years for a final determination, and more than 10,000 people die each year without getting an answer.
This was the case for Michael Bryand and Josephine Tavares. In September 2020, 35-year-old Bryand became ill with COVID-19. Bryand, who was working at Wells Fargo in San Antonio at the time, went on short-term disability and subsequently long-term disability but was eventually refused Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI.
Taveras, a mother of two from Brooklyn, New York, who contracted COVID-19 two years ago, says that her battle with long COVID has left her with severe symptoms such as respiratory issues and arthritis, which have prevented her from returning to work as a nanny. Taveras’s family is having trouble making ends meet. They are unable to work and are not eligible for government benefits. She applied for SSDI in October of last year, but it was rejected; she is currently appealing.
According to recent estimates from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, up to 23 million Americans have long Covid. A separate analysis from the Brookings Institution suggested that up to 4 million people are likely out of work due to the illness.
Contacting the Social Security Administration is also difficult. In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky in September, AARP noted wait times of around 31 minutes, roughly ten times longer than in 2012.
For millions of Americans, the COVID-19 pandemic has been catastrophic. COVID-19 has caused some people to experience difficulties in their daily lives and at work. Some people will be unable to return to work due to ongoing symptoms. The United States’ disability benefits system needs reform. Benefits should be increased, and the application process should be streamlined. These benefits are critical to people’s lives, and many die waiting for an answer.
Dickler, Jessica, and Emily Lorsch. “’I Never Really Got Better’ – Long Covid Patients Share Their Struggle with Ongoing Symptoms and the Health-Care System.” CNBC, CNBC, 30 Nov. 2022, https://www.cnbc.com/2022/11/30/long-covid-patients-share-their-struggle-with-disability-coverage.html.
Konish, Lorie. “As Social Security Disability Application Wait Times Hit Record High, Experts Say It’s a Sign the Agency Needs More Funding.” CNBC, CNBC, 16 Sept. 2022, https://www.cnbc.com/amp/2022/09/16/long-social-security-service-waits-signal-need-for-more-funds.html.
Ladyzhets, Betsy. “People with Long Covid Face Barriers to Government Disability Benefits.” Kaiser Health News, Kaiser Family Foundation, 9 Nov. 2022, https://khn.org/news/article/long-covid-barriers-government-disability-benefits/.
Trudeau, Joyce. “Does Social Security Disability Deny Everyone the First Time They Apply?” Disability Secrets, Nolo, 21 Jan. 2022, https://www.disabilitysecrets.com/does-social-security-deny-you-the-first-time-you-apply-for-disability.html.