Is It Time for Social Security Reform?

Most people who try to get a social security case handled are aware that it can take anywhere from two […]

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Most people who try to get a social security case handled are aware that it can take anywhere from two to three years before receiving their first check. This is something that I know firsthand. I feel it is time for our federal officials to step up to the plate and demand that the people who are in charge of the Social Security claims make changes in how they manage the system that they serve.

Many people who rely on SSI, SSDI or Social Security have had to wait years until their benefits kick in. How would the federal officials like it if they were told that they could not get their paychecks for anywhere from one to three years? How could they live from month to month without having money coming in?

For many people who live with a disability, having to deal with this system of government is time consuming and frustrating.

Why so time consuming? One answer that I have been given time and time again is that there is a backlog of cases.

Why frustrating? There are many hoops we are told we must jump through to get money from the system. Hoop One: file for the program that you fit in. Hoop Two: prove that you have a case. Hoop Three: get denied. Hoop Four: file an appeal. This process itself can take one to two years. Hoop Five: wait for the appeal to be approved, after which you have a court hearing. After the court date you have to wait two more months to hear back regarding the judge’s decision. Finally, when the judge rules in your favor, you must wait four to six more months before you get your first check. Wouldn’t you be frustrated?

The truth of the matter is, we need, no we demand Social Security reform NOW! And, not the kind of changes President Bush is suggesting, like privatizing. What we need is streamlining. Why should any person have to go through delays in getting money that they have earned?

We need to cut out the number of steps a person must take to get assistance for their daily living expenses.

For me, Social Security reform requires the following steps:

1. Have more judges and lawyers available to handle the cases. The lawyers must be trained in disability awareness, not just the legal system.

2. Provide for more in-depth studies of the applications in order to prevent all the appeals, which take more time and money from both the legal system and the person applying for benefits.

3. Assign one person from the Social Security office, and one law firm, to each case. This would eliminate the confusion and duplication of paperwork and phone calls.

Why am I writing this article? Because for the past three years I have been fighting the system to get money from my father’s Social Security account after he passed away. I have been patient to a point, but my patience has run thin. I have contacted my con-gressman’s office for their help. Within 24 hours, his staff was able to get me answers that I have been unable to get after four months of dealing with the Social Security folks. One of the answers was an answer I had been looking for; the other answer was one I did not want to hear.

Getting this issue resolved will take more time—and one more appeal. When I filed for a second claim, I was told that 95% of all initial applications are denied and then have to be appealed. The question is “Why?” Why so many denials? And how many people end up dropping their cases because they are afraid of the appeal process and may not understand that they are denied the first time for no solid reason?

We need to reform this messed up system. If you have any interest in seeing Social Security reform started in Minnesota, please contact me and let’s see what we can accomplish.

Michael Cohn can be contacted at [email protected]

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