Social Security In the News
Recently, you may have heard some negative stories about Social Security’s disability programs in the news. Some news outlets have described Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income as just another way for people to get something for nothing. However, these stories are not necessarily true and, in fact, most people applying for and receiving these benefits are truly disabled and are not able to perform any full-time work.
Part of the confusion may be due to Social Security’s complex system for determining whether someone is disabled. Even Social Security’s own employees are often unable to understand or explain certain aspects of the disability process. The application process itself can be frustrating and overwhelming, especially if you are dealing with significant physical or mental health problems. Therefore, as attorneys who exclusively practice Social Security Disability law, we want to make sure that the public at large knows the truth about the Social Security disability programs and, most importantly, those people who receive benefits under these programs.
Most people who apply for disability benefits are people who have worked and paid money in to the Social Security system for much of their adult lives. They would rather be working and earning money for themselves, but due to physical or mental impairments, they are unable to sustain full-time work. The money they are paid from the disability program is based upon the money they paid into the system. They are not abusing the system; they are making a claim for what they are owed under the Social Security system.
Further, the disability process can be burdensome and lengthy– definitely not something someone can just do on a whim. Some people wait for nearly two years before they are awarded and begin receiving disability benefits.
Claimants must provide information about their doctors, therapists, medication, and work history. They must fill out numerous forms about their activities of daily living and attend physical and psychological examinations set up for them by Social Security. Mostly, though, they must wait. They wait for Social Security to make two decisions, usually denials, before they can ask a judge to look at their claim. Then, they must wait for up to a year for their hearing with a judge to be scheduled.
Then, they wait for the decision, and if the decision is another denial, they have to choose between appealing the denial or starting the whole process over again. And then, instead of trying again, some just give up.
Are there currently people who are abusing the system and making fraudulent claims? Yes. However, the majority of people requesting assistance under Social Security’s disability programs are disabled and entitled to receive the benefits available to them. For some, it’s the difference between being able to pay rent and homelessness. For many others, these programs provide medical insurance that will provide treatment that may allow them to return to work some day. It is for these reasons that it is important to concentrate on the majority of claimants who are applying with a valid claim. We should not allow the small minority who may seem to be misusing it take the spotlight away from the good that these programs provide to so many people every day.