The SSA Works to Improve Its Image Among the Disabled - No Easy Task

Submitted by Chris on

Under political attack as a black hole in the budget, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is working hard to improve its image. Acknowledging the long wait disabled people must put up with, the SSA is opening new offices and hiring more case evaluators. That’s wonderful news for those who are seeking a hearing.

In addition, the SSA has also added 38 diseases and disabling conditions to its “fast track approval” list. When a person with one of these conditions applies for benefits, he or she is automatically assumed to be disabled and is granted a “compassionate allowance.” Those who suffer from disabilities that qualify for a compassionate allowance may qualify for disability benefits in as little as ten days. The regular decision-making process can take much longer – sometimes many months longer.

But regardless of whether your disability qualifies for fast track approval or whether your case has been grinding on for months, if you apply for SSDI, you are still subject to the five month waiting period that starts at the onset of your disability and ends five months later. This may not affect you if you are on the regular approval track – you will probably have spent those five months waiting for your case to be judged. But if you are on fast track approval, it can be something of a jolt to discover you have to wait another four to five months for those desperately needed benefits. Again, if the onset of your disability is proved to be several months prior to your application, this waiting period may be shortened or no longer exist. This waiting period does not apply to SSI applicants, regardless of the date of onset.

Is now the time to bring up the 24-month waiting period for Medicare benefits once your Social Security disability benefits are allowed?

These rules seem to fall under that very broad category of decisions that make us scratch our heads and wonder “What were they thinking?” especially when we apply these rules to the woman whose disability case is reported below. Her disability is obvious, severe, life-threatening, but evidently not obvious, severe, or life-threatening enough, because her case has been denied disability by the SSA. Twice.

If she ever does get approved, it won’t be fast track approval because her condition hasn’t made the list. When we hear about disability cases like this, we have to wonder if more offices and a list of 50 conditions that qualify for governmental compassion is really the answer to the SSA’s image problem.

This story was reported by, a Florida news outlet. According to the story, a 28 year old mother of five contracted Scheuermann's disease, a rare skeletal condition that causes the spine to bend. The curve in this woman’s spine is nearly 90 degrees, crushing her lungs and severely hampering her ability to breathe. Because of the condition, the applicant is unable to sit or stand for more than an hour. Her doctors agree that she is permanently disabled from the condition. She’s suing the government for her benefits.

Why on earth should she have to?

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