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Applying for disability is anything but easy

Thursday, January 16, 2014

  • By: Jose Blanco
  • Organization: Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma

There is a misconception in our society that it is easy to be approved for disability benefits through Social Security. But in my experience as a disability attorney, I can tell you there is nothing further from the truth.

The reality is that Social Security has made applying for benefits a very lengthy and difficult process, thus hurting people that deserve to be approved. Since a typical claim for disability benefits takes over two years, many deserving applicants give up before they get to the hearing stage.

Visit the local field office to submit a form and you will most likely wait hours. Make a phone call to find out the status of the case, and you are lucky to speak to a person.

During the process, the agency sends out extensive forms to claimants, requiring that they be filled out and returned immediately or else the case will be dismissed. Then many times, the agency actually loses documents that have been submitted and unless the applicant has a fax receipt or file stamped copy showing that it was submitted, they will dismiss the case anyway.

Further, applicants are required to go to multiple appointments with agency doctors, and sometimes multiple hearings. Failure to appear at one of your appointments or hearings, without good cause, can result in a denial requiring the applicant to start the entire application process from the beginning.

Further, an extended period without medical treatment can also result in a denial.

This is particularly unfair to deserving applicants without medical insurance or access to free clinics. Hopefully, successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act will help to alleviate some this problem.

Even after being approved for benefits, a disabled person can expect periodic case reviews, to determine whether they are still disabled. If they fail to appear at their review hearing, or in some other way fail to cooperate with the agency during the review, their benefits will be terminated.

Of all the burdens the agency makes on disabled people, probably the worst burden they have to go through does not come from the agency. It is the way our society treats certain types of disabled people.

Just because someone appears to be perfectly healthy does not mean that they are not disabled. For example, many people living with AIDS, on a good day may appear perfectly healthy. Also, people with severe mental illness or a developmental cognitive disability may also appear healthy.

Instead of questioning the legitimacy of a person’s disability, we should be treating them with compassion. A disabled person with little to no work history typically receives about $700 a month, which is significantly less than minimum wage. This is hardly enough to get by. This holiday season, please remember the disabled and give to any charity that supports the disabled.

To make a donation to the Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund, please visit okaidscarefund.com

To make a donation to Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma’s Campaign for Justice, please visit legalaidok.org.

Published in The Gayly – December 9, 2013 @ 3:30pm

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