The COVID-19 pandemic has not only caused illness and death but also has had disastrous effects on all of American society. One effect of the pandemic has been especially harmful to the elderly and disabled community, i.e., accessing their much-needed income replacement. The Supplemental Security Income program (SSI), which serves as a lifeline for the most vulnerable people in our communities, has collapsed during the pandemic.
Social Security Closes Offices Nationwide
Because of the social distancing requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has closed its network of over 1,200 field offices. The Social Security Administration does not take online applications for SSI and field offices are closed to the public, so elderly and disabled individuals who must apply for benefits have only one way to do so: calling Social Security’s overburdened and understaffed general telephone number.
Prior to the pandemic, applying for SSI benefits was already an extremely difficult, lengthy process. The application is 23 pages long, and statistics indicate that two-thirds of those who applied could not meet the strict tests for financial and medical entitlement.
Declining Number of Applications
From July to November 2020, the Social Security Administration awarded benefits to approximately 100,000 fewer individuals than during that same period last year. At this rate, some 230,000 low-income and disabled Americans will not receive the benefits they so desperately need.
Hope on the Horizon
However, the Social Security Administration is aware of the multiple challenges facing the elderly and disabled community, and the organization is actively making efforts to address them. Moreover, we have a new administration, and Social Security hopes that it will move swiftly to ensure that the basic needs of all Americans are met. Read more about this issue at https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/14/opinion/supplemental-security-income-ssa-disability.html