Family wins $206,000 in disability benefits after 9-year quest

Anyone who has applied for Social Security disability benefits in recent years here in Milwaukee knows that the wait can be long and the process, arduous. As the Social Security Administration continues to grapple with a record-breaking caseload, many disabled Wisconsin workers who are deserving of benefits are instead faced with denials and delays.

News recently broke when one man, who applied for Social Security disability benefits back in 2003, learned that after several appeals, a nine-year wait and a steady decline into poverty, he has been awarded about $206,000 in SSDI benefits.

The man, now 62, began suffering from heart failure in August 2003 and he had heart valve surgery and a pacemaker implanted that year. Unable to work, he applied for Social Security disability insurance benefits, but the SSA instead gave him Supplemental Security Income benefits. This program is for those who have not yet paid enough payroll taxes to qualify for SSDI, and the benefits offered under SSI are far less than those under SSDI.

The man was provided $500 under SSI, and he would have received about $2,000 a month had he been approved for SSDI.

The man appealed the decision, and it took about three years to receive an answer–during which time his wife could only earn a very limited income or his SSI benefits would decrease even further. In 2006, he received word that his appeal was denied, and another appeal handled by the same judge was denied yet again in 2009.

In May, another administrative law judge reviewed the case and awarded the man $2,031 in monthly SSDI benefits as well as the back-benefit award of $206,000.

Complicating this man’s case was the fact that any medical evidence of his disability was scare, which can be common in SSDI cases because many applicants do not have health insurance coverage.

While nine years is simply too long to wait to receive disability benefits, you could actually say this man is lucky. This is because many people who find themselves in similar situations die trying to obtain benefits. In fact, last year the SSA dismissed about 2,000 cases because the applicant died.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, “Families face long waits for Social Security disability benefits,” Yvonne Wenger, Oct. 27, 2012

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