Fighting Through Poverty in the Quest for Disability Benefits

Submitted by Chris on

We all know that the fight for Social Security Disability benefits can be a struggle. A mere 30 percent of claimants are awarded disability benefits during the initial stage of the application process, and that process alone can take three to six months to complete. The remaining Social Security Disability applicants must endure a complicated and lengthy appeal process. While many of us are familiar with the statistics and timelines related to disability claims, we don't really understand what happens to these applicants as they fight for disability benefits. Often, the personal stories get lost in the numbers.

The fact of the matter is that, when a disability applicant must appeal a denied Social Security Disability application, the fight for benefits isn't just an inconvenience. These applicants desperately need the Social Security Disability benefits for which they are applying, and some disabled workers will go broke in their fight for payments from the Social Security Administration. Such was the case for Ora Williams, a 62-year-old South Carolina disability applicant.

Ms. Williams spent her lifetime working in factories making air filters. Last year she suffered an aneurysm behind her left eye, which left her unable to keep her balance. She also suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure. These conditions made it impossible for Ora to continue work at the factory, which she left approximately one year ago.

Ms. Williams applied for Social Security Disability benefits, but she was denied during the initial stage of the application process. She even retained the services of a disability attorney, yet her claim for disability benefits was still denied. The reason for her denial? The Social Security Administration has assumed that although Ms. Williams is unable to perform her previous work, she could possibly perform some other, less strenuous type of job.

Unfortunately, during her struggle to obtain disability benefits, Ora has lost everything. Every penny she had ever saved during her lifetime was spent just trying to stay afloat during the Social Security Disability claim and appeal process, and now not only is her savings drained, but she is also behind in paying her utility bills. If it weren’t for SNAP (formerly food stamps), Ms. Williams may have starved.

Fortunately, Ora did receive a call stating that she would be able to begin receiving Social Security retirement payments, and she is expected to receive her first payment on the third Wednesday of July. While these payments will help, she is still left without a penny to her name until the first payment arrives, and the bills continue to pile up.

The sad thing is, Ora is not alone in this struggle. Many Social Security Disability applicants go broke and begin living in poverty before their benefits can be approved. Some even go homeless. To add to the problem, stories like Ora's are likely to become increasingly common, as the Social Security Administration receives more claims each year and reform makes it harder to receive retirement benefits at younger ages. While many of us may think that the current wait times required for Social Security Disability approval are ridiculous, some politicians are trying to make the waits even longer. Where is the logic behind this?

We all understand budget cuts to programs where those cuts are warranted, but we have paid for the Social Security programs. These programs belong to us, as citizens. A system that we have paid into for so long seems to let many of us down when we need it the most. Ora Williams is testament to this fact.

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