Thursday, September 29, 2005

Does the government really care about disability applicants?

I just got off the phone, not 3 minutes ago, with a disability claimant. He needs to have his reconsideration filed and I asked him if he had been seen by any doctors recently. He gave the all too common answer: "No, I haven't been able to go. My insurance ran out a long time ago".

This is a very common situation. And I've heard it so much that I've become somewhat desensitived to it. But...if you really think about it, these situations (which ARE extremely common) are horrendous.

Let me put on my examiner/caseworker hat for a moment. The disability system is set up so that the prospect of being approved for disability weighs entirely on a claimants medical records. And not just on medical records, but on recent records (aside from closed periods).

Well, ding ding ding (wake up bureaucrats, politicians, and red-tape functionaries), if the process for eventually---we hope---getting approved for disability benefits can take up to 3 years (I'm not pulling that number out of a rabbit hat either----just call any attorney or non attorney practicing in the raleigh north carolina area and they will sullenly confirm this information), then how the heck can a claimant be expected to have decent medical records by the time they get to a hearing (a destination most cases will arrive at)?

Answer: an unacceptably large percentage of claimants won't (I typically tell people to seek out a county health department, free clinic, or even go the ER, if need be---but's let be honest, that doesn't take the place of records generated via an ongoing treating physician relationship).

Now, before I go on, I acknowledge the notion that the disability system is not responsible in any way, shape, or form for facilitating a claimant's access to medical care while a case is pending in order to facilitate a claim (i.e. ensure that records are in place to substantiate allegations of disability).

But, even for those claimants who had mainstream employer-provided health insurance, COBRA only lasts 18 months.

So, when the process can last 2 or 3 years, where does that leave claimants? In a bad way, without a doubt. Not only are they put in the position of finding it difficult to document their impairments----to add insult to injury their conditions will sometimes worsen as a result of having inadequate access to medical care.

Now, back to the headline of this post. THESE HUGE WAIT TIMES came into effect under the administration currently sitting in office. So, do they care? Do they really care about those who are least able to assist themselves?

I would have to say no. They do not.

I will leave you with this anecdote: about 2 years ago I tried to assist one particular claimant whose situation was quite miserable. He had no access to medical care and his living conditions were beyond the pale. To try to help him, I contacted the following agencies in his city (not my own area of operation): the salvation army, catholic social ministries, and urban ministries. Want to know what I was told? They were out of funds. THIS WAS IN FEBRUARY OF THAT YEAR.

So, what does that say about GW's notions of faith-based charities taking up the slack from the government cutting back: it says that it's all crap and bs.
(In addition to being a former disability examiner, I used to be a food stamp caseworker, medicaid caseworker, and an afdc worker, and I can tell you unequivocally that private charities will never be able to fill any gap left behind by the feds, but that's another conversation).

Now, why this post? Because in later posts I 'd like to talk more about the proposals for change regarding the social security disability system and what these changes may potentially mean.

Chew on this as a parting thought. The people who are trying to "reform" social security disability are the same people who tried to (or are trying to, as the case may be):

1. bust the federal employees unions (and have to some extent succeeded),

2. altered regulations regarding overtime compensation in a way that was clearly hostile to workers,

3. are trying to limit the ability of mesothelioma victims to seek
compensation(the sick part part about this is that mesothelioma has an incubation period of up to 40 years following exposure to asbestos fibers and the diagnosis itself is a literal death sentence----no one survives, even following a pneumonectomy).

And these are just a few things.

Does your government care about you? I would have to say, not "this particular" government. (However, if you are a real estate developer in louisiana and want to develop in the wetlands, hey, go ahead---who cares about hurricanes and flood damage, right?)

Return to the Social Security Disability SSI Benefits Blog

Other Posts:
Social Security Disability Application
Are you automatically denied for Social Security Disability or SSI when you first apply with an initial application ?
Who makes the Social Security Disability decision ?
Filing for disability
Social security disability benefits
Social Security Disability SSI virginia


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