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The very real consequences of the SSA's massive backlog

We have previously written about the fact that the Social Security Administration is overwhelmed by a substantial backlog of initial claims and appeals. It is not necessarily unusual for a government agency to have some sort of work-related backlog. However, there is a reason why The Washington Post recently deemed the SSA’s the “backlog of backlogs.”

According to the Post, the SSA’s backlog is even larger than the backlog at the Department of Veterans Affairs, where more than 600,000 claims are pending and 526,000 individuals are “waiting in line.” Just how large is the backlog at the SSA? According to the Post, the SSA is 990,399 cases behind.

The realities of the SSA backlog extend much farther than the inconvenience of waiting to hear whether or not one’s claim has been approved. The majority of individuals who are waiting for their Social Security Disability benefits claims to be approved survive on a very low income. SSD benefits are only awarded to individuals who earn income below a certain amount. As a result, waiting for SSD claim approval can mean the difference between shopping for necessities and going without.

In addition, many individuals seeking approval for SSD benefits struggle with medical conditions which are made worse by stress. The very act of waiting for approval can be stressful enough to make an individual’s medical condition even more debilitating.

The SSA’s backlog is not simply a long, inconvenient line. It is a stress-inducing vortex with the power to make ill or injured and relatively impoverished Americans suffer significant financial consequences. And it therefore needs to be addressed with the urgency it deserves.

Source: The Washington Post, "'It's just maddening. There’s nothing you can do.'" David A. Fahrenthold, Oct. 18, 2014

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