COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) — Candidates for Social Safety incapacity advantages are ready months, and typically even years, to be accepted.
Incapacity advantages via the Social Safety Administration (SSA) supplies month-to-month stipends to individuals who have not labored for a protracted time period on account of a bodily or psychological incapacity.
The approval course of is complicated and includes a number of steps to confirm an applicant meets the revenue threshold and has medical proof of their incapacity. Due to the complexity, many instances candidates rent somebody to assist them file, like Gerald Riley.
He has been serving to candidates file incapacity advantages since 1994. He stated the processing time has considerably elevated because the pandemic.
The preliminary submitting course of takes about eight to 12 months, he stated. In accordance with information on the Social Safety Administration’s web site, the common processing time in December for a incapacity profit software was 7 months. Earlier than the pandemic, it was solely 4 months.
“I’ve shoppers who filed early final yr they usually’re nonetheless ready for an preliminary resolution,” Riley stated. “I’ve a shopper, he filed his preliminary request for a choice in March of 2022, and we’re nonetheless ready.”
And this does not embody the enchantment course of. Riley stated most of the time candidates are denied on their first software, together with about 80% of his shoppers. The enchantment course of provides one other yr.
“Complete time is about 24 months,” Riley stated. “Previous to the pandemic, it was operating about 18 months. It was rather a lot sooner.”
Since October 2021, Riley stated he had three shoppers die whereas ready for approval.
The Independence Heart is an area nonprofit that helps residents apply for advantages. Ashley Billington, the group’s Older People with Blindness program supervisor informed 13 Investigates the Colorado Springs Social Safety workplace is working at 40% capability.
“We’re conscious of Independence Heart customers who’ve been compelled to dump their home items to make ends meet as they wait greater than a yr for SSA to make a willpower,” Billington stated by way of electronic mail.
The regional Social Safety Administration workplace in Denver stated the backlog in software approvals is because of staffing shortages following the pandemic. It informed 13 Investigates it is addressing the scenario by bringing again retired staff, implementing a hiring surge and reevaluating the incapacity course of.
“Some elements driving the backlog embody issue hiring—as skilled within the bigger labor market– traditionally excessive attrition within the DDSs—about 20 p.c for the final two years for incapacity examiners—which we’re assessing for drivers, rising medical proof that should be reviewed, and shortages of medical specialists to conduct consultative exams and evaluate circumstances,” stated Shayla Hagburg, the Social Safety Administration regional communications director.
However Riley stated the answer begins with extra funding from Congress.
“The important thing concern is allocating extra money to the Social Safety Administration so that they rent extra individuals,” he stated. “Congress over time has been notoriously dangerous at allocating cash to the Social Safety Administration.”
Jeff Nesbit, the deputy commissioner for communications with the Social Safety Administration, requested Congress for an extra $800 million of funding this yr that might “enable [it] to keep up [its] present service ranges with out additional deterioration.”
13 Investigates contacted Congressman Doug Lamborn, Sen. John Hickenlooper and Sen. Michael Bennet however by no means obtained feedback concerning the backlog or funding for SSA.