SSA Office Closures Mean Fewer Approved Claims
The coronavirus pandemic has created a terrible effect for those who are disabled. The Social Security Administration has closed 1,200 field offices in response to the pandemic, making it even more difficult for those suffering from disabilities to get their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims approved. The offices have been closed for almost two years now, causing a huge backlog and lack of benefit payments for those who need the money the most.
Before the pandemic, more than 43 million Americans were served at field offices across the United States. This means that those with barriers to benefits—such as those with physical or mental disabilities, low incomes, unstable housing, limited English proficiency—have not been able to file claims and get benefits. In fact, it is estimated that approximately half a million people have been left without benefits due to the office closures.
During fiscal year 2021, SSDI benefit awards were down 25% compared to fiscal year 2019. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability awards were down even more—by 30%. Had SSDI awards continued at the pre-pandemic level, there would have been 270,000 more awards over the last two fiscal years.
Keep in mind that some SSI recipients also receive SSDI. Despite this, it is estimated that about 500,000 fewer Americans have been awarded disability benefits since the pandemic started.
The SSA is aware of the decline in disability awards and admits that it is a major problem. The agency saw the effects of field office closures right away. Field offices closed in March 2020, and just one month later, applications for SSI from retirement-age adults were down by 55 percent compared to the previous year.
What Can Be Done?
The SSA and the White House are working together to plan a partial re-opening of its field offices sometime in January. There will be both in-office staff and teleworkers in place.
While this is a good start, more needs to be done to get through the claims. For example, extending hours into evenings and weekends would help in low-income areas. Walk-in, same-day service would be essential, as many lack reliable internet access.
The application process also needs a major overhaul. A 23-page application is simply too much. Plus, the application is not available online, which complicates things further. Having a shorter, easier application online would streamline the process.
Learn More About Social Security Disability Benefits
Those who rely on these benefits are diverse racially and economically. The poor and disabled have been left behind by the pandemic and the subsequent SSA office closures. Hopefully the partial reopening that is set to happen next year will help get claims approved in a more timely fashion.
Delays in benefits can cause a lot of financial hardship. White Plains Social Security disability lawyer Michael Lawrence Varon will do what it takes to get your claim approved as quickly as possible. To schedule a consultation, fill out the online form or call 914-294-2145.