If you apply for Social Security Disability Benefits, and If you die before the benefits are awarded, the Social Security Administration doesn't have to pay you. They have a secret code for applications that don't need to be processed because the applicant died after submission: DXDI. The SSA's motto might very easily be "slow and steady wins the race." The hurt, injured and disabled workers are not the winners in this game.
The Wall Street Journal reported that "Growing Case Backlog Leaves Terminally Ill Waiting."
It reports that there have been 15,043 DXDI classifications in the past 6 years. That article highlighted the experiences of two Maryland social security disability applicants: Dexter Penny of District Heights, Maryland and Philip Barnes of Indian Head Maryland. Here are their stories:
- Dexter Penny: in February 2009, Mr. Dexter applied for disability benefits after his terminal colon cancer diagnosis. He was denied. He appealed that denial. He was denied. He hired a lawyer through Legal Aid, and he was finally granted benefits in December 2010--nine days after his death. A mere 45 days later, Mr. Dexter's family received a letter revoking the benefits because Mr. Dexter did not respond to the acceptance letter.
- Philip Barnes: while working at a hotel in November 2007, Mr. Barnes was robbed and shot four times, with bullets hitting him in his left arm, spleen, kidney, left buttock and lower back. Significant medical intervention was required, including a plate in his arm and a stent in his kidney (which needs to be replaced yearly). He has significant back pain to this day. He is still waiting for benefits.
The SSA is taking microscopic baby steps to fix the problem by looking for the terminally ill, and letting them skip ahead in the line. With over 771,338 cases on appeal, that's hardly a great fix, though. The reality is that the SSA doesn't have the time, manpower or energy to take care of people who have paid their part. Remember, these are folks who have worked and paid into social security. When they need to avail themselves of the process, they are routinely denied without so much as a cursory glance at the medical records. The sad reality is that most people have their initial applications denied, and must file a string of appeals, hoping for progress.
A cynic might think that the Social Security Administration knows it will pay out fewer claims by taking their sweet time at all steps of the process. Let's look at the 2009 statistics for workers (people who are applying for social security disability benSocial Security Administration knows it will pay out fewer claims by taking their sweet time at all steps of the process. Let's look at the 2009 statistics for workers (people who are applying for social security disability benefits based on their history of wage-earning):
- 48.6%: Approvals at the initial application level (809,439 decisions, 393,092 approvals) (Frankly, I was surprised that the percentage is this high. In my experience as a social security disability lawyer i have seen so many people who have serious injuries wrongfully denied benefits at the initial application and reconsideration stage)
- 10.5%: Approvals at the reconsideration level (226,824 decisions, 23,826 approvals)
- 85.4%: Subsequent approvals (hearings, etc.)(65,382 decisions, 55,829 approvals)
Remember, these are only statistics for SSD. The denials for SSI are much higher. This means that the initial decision-making process was wrong and had to be corrected in 79,655 cases in 2009. These statistics do not include any of the 15,043 applicants who died while waiting for some level of appeal.
Insurance companies, with their "Delay, Deny, Delay" tactics could learn a thing or two from the SSA. Anyone who has been through the labyrinthine process that is the Social Security Disability application knows that it takes time. For over 15,000 people, it takes too much time. Too many people just give up after their claim for disability benefits is denied. I urge anyone involved in the proces to hang in there, and FIGHT. Hire a lawyer to help you. If you have paid into the system, have the appropriate work history, and are disabled now such that you cannot work, then you owe it to yourself and your family to get the benefits you deserve.
For anyone who has been denied in their quest for social security disability benefits (or SSI benefits for that matter), it is important to remember that there is a strict 60 day deadline to appeal that denial. The key to getting through this process as quickly as possible is to proactively file the necessary forms and documents, and to timely respond to requests for additional information by the Social Security Administration. We've been through this process, and we can help to make sure you don't become a statistic. Contact us at 1.888.213.8140, or online for a free consultation.
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