Can people get disability benefits easily?

Here's a paraphrased comment from someone: "The SSDI and SSI programs are haywire. It annoys me that people get disability so readily and easily. This individual has no real clue as to how the system works. True, some people do get approved on the first disability application. However, the majority, about 70 percent, do not.

What happens to those individuals? Some of them give up and really shouldn't. In many of these instances this occurs because the individual has been misinformed about their rights to appeal, or they find the experience of filing and being denied too depressing or anxiety-provoking. Some of them misunderstand the meaning of appeals and mistakenly file new claims instead of filing an actual appeal (which usually just leads to more denials).

Other individuals, however, who do not give and, instead, enter into the social security appeal process, begin what is usually a lengthy process that may consume years of waiting.

The waiting is accounted for by two things:

1) The first appeal, the reconsideration, is usually denied, typically after being with a disability examiner for one to four months...though it can be longer.

2) The second appeal, the request for a hearing, can often take 2 years or longer to result in a scheduled hearing.

Then, of course, there is the unpleasant fact that, even after being told by a judge that they have, effectively, been approved at a disability hearing, a claimant may have to wait months more for the actual notice of decision that makes it all official. And, even then, while their monthly benefits are put into pay status relatively quickly, a claimant may be forced to wait months longer for their back pay to be processed.

Back pay, of course, is what claimants--who are behind on their car payments and mortgages, and other bills, as a result of not being able to work for so long--desperately need.

Can people get disability benefits readily and easily? The answer is "sometimes", but, most often, not. And, usually, the process is financially wrenching and devastating to those who must go through it.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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