Imagine, if you will, being ill for a long time and not being able to work any longer. I met many people when I worked in community mental health back in the 1990s who were like this. They were on a program called Social Security Disability Income (SSDI or SSI, depending upon the issue). The government paid them a tiny amount of money that allowed them to subsist in some small way in society. It’s a form of welfare, but most civilized societies today recognize the value in taking care of their own poor and ill citizens.
Now, imagine if you’ve been dealing with your illness — like schizophrenia — for years on your own, but you just can’t hold down any type of job because of the voices in your head. Medication helps to keep most of them at bay, but not all of them. You still feel like you don’t fit into this world, and everytime you try to take on a new job, it ends in disaster.
Your doctors — both your therapist and your psychiatrist — both agree with this assessment, and even though you’ve tried job programs and social workers and different kinds of occupational courses and stuff, nothing has worked. You’ve been at it for years and still nothing.
So finally, with some help, you apply to the Social Security administration for this SSDI program. You apply, and then like with any other social program, you wait.
And then you wait some more.
Finally, months later, you get word that your claim has been denied.
No problem, you think. You know that if you appeal, your claim will be heard by a judge and you’ll be interviewed in person to see if you meet the requirements. You also know know that two-thirds of the claims appealed eventually get approved, so you hold out hope.
And then you wait.
In some cases, nearly 2 years, while the government takes its good ‘ole time in getting around to your appeal. Meanwhile, you still can’t work, can’t hold down a job, and are reliant on the good will and graces of your own family (if they’re still around) or the state to try and make ends meet in your life.
Is this what our Great Society has come to?
Read the full story over at The New York Times (free registration required): Disability Cases Last Longer as Backlog Rises