SSDI Wait Period Threatened By COVID

To put in perspective exactly how bad this is: people die waiting to see if they qualify for disability, usually from the very disability that forced them to apply in the first place. And it’s notoriously difficult to get approved for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) in the first place.

SSDI hearings have experienced a whopping 591-day delay on average, or a 40 percent increase from 2010 to 2018. This is a harsh reality: SSDI is a government benefit provided with very little actual government support. There aren’t enough workers to investigate and properly file claims. There aren’t enough judges to promptly clear the docket of new cases. COVID-19 didn’t help at all.

For those who say, “Good. It should be hard to get on disability,” we have a rebuttal: “Why?” Why should it be this difficult for people who have physical or mental incapacities to get the payments they need to survive? How many people need to have their financial security ruined by the unforeseeable circumstances of life before we accept that it’s a worthwhile system to implement? 

And don’t forget, these people receive all the backpay that accrues from the moment they apply until the moment the application is accepted. The system would be more stable with smaller payments, and that means accepting applications as they arrive.

For a year now, COVID-19 has strained the system to it’s breaking point.

Thankfully, the recent passage of another round of economic relief will help SSDI applicants get their heads above water for another month or two.

The IRS said, “Because these payments are automatic for most eligible people, contacting either financial institutions or the IRS on payment timing will not speed up their arrival.”

A spokesperson added, “For those who received EIP1 or EIP2 but don’t receive a payment via direct deposit, they will generally receive a check or, in some instances, a prepaid debit card (referred to as an “EIP Card). A payment will not be added to an existing EIP card mailed for the first or second round of stimulus payments.”

In general, SSDI has experienced yet another slowdown. Disabled U.S. citizen Antonio Evans said, “I had a slip and fall where I damaged my spine. At 4,5 and 6 in my neck. I had to recover from being paralyzed from the neck down.”

His application for SSDI was filed in 2019 — but nearly two years later, it still hasn’t been accepted or denied.

Non-profit clinic manager Tom Yates helps low-income individuals navigate the SSDI application, hoping to make it a little faster for them. Yates said, “It’s a hard system to navigate. It’s like, I don’t try to do my income taxes myself. It’s a complicated system. And I would say that Social Security and SSI disability is similar. The rules are incredibly complex.”

He added, “[Applicants are] having trouble getting medical records or sending people out for medical exams when they can do that. So the whole process has really kind of slowed down because of the pandemic. It’s, I wouldn’t say collapsed, but for some people, it’s probably the same effect, just nothing is moving like it should be.”