There are more than 8 million Americans over the age of 65 who are disabled and rely on Social Security for survival. That number is on the rise, too. The program is now 43 years old and some say it’s long overdue for an overhaul, especially considering the absence of a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for 2016.
One of the most alarming facts is the number of recipients who live in poverty, despite their benefits. There are at least 50 national organizations that have now endorsed the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act of 2015-16 with the goal of eliminating these antiquated rules both for those receiving benefits and who have been denied coverage. Unfortunately, it’s the same act that’s been introduced year after year, with little, if any lawmaker interest. If the act is ever passed, it would update the income and asset limits to better reflect reasonable assistance in today’s dollars.
Many who receive Supplemental Security Income benefits also receive Medicaid, and yet for too many, it’s still not enough. Then, there are the rules are that are hard lined, and overstepping even one can cause significant problems for those who need these benefits. For instance, an SSI recipient may not have more than $2,000 in available resources and in most states, applicants may not have more than $718 in monthly income. Worse, for those whose family members help provide food and other maintenance necessities, they may actually prevent their loved one from qualifying.
The program was designed, in President Nixon’s words, more than 30 years ago, to be a “big step out of poverty and toward a life of dignity and independence”. It’s often anything but for many recipients, especially when the annual amount comes to less than $9,000 annually (2015).
There are appeals processes for those who are denied coverage and benefits are to continue during that appeals process – but only if that individual appeals within 10 days of receiving the notice. According to some reports, employees at the Social Security Administration fail to keep adequate timelines of when appeals are filed. When that happens, the odds increase that paperwork is lost – even when it’s sent certified mail. If the employees are losing and misfiling paperwork, it jeopardizes the recipient’s ability to continue to receive benefits.
Further, some employees have been fired for bypassing the laws when it comes to an appeals claim. For instance, when a conference is requested by a denied applicant, the SSA must schedule a meeting within 15 days of receiving that request. Unfortunately, the SSA may request a delay – and too many times, that’s exactly what happens.
These are just a few of the many problems within the Social Security Administration as it exists today. The new law, if passed, will overhaul it in its entirety. It will put into place better protective mechanisms for recipients and applicants and will allow elder care lawyers better options for protecting their clients.
Currently, reports are being compiled that will bolster the justification for improving the law. We will continue to follow the events as they unfold.