CLEVELAND — Payments for people on Social Security increased 8.7% this week. It’s a big boost when the system works as expected, but often it doesn’t. News 5 Investigators have been reporting on Social Security issues for years. The Social Unrest series takes your complaints directly to Washington, DC. Now the government is facing new problems and people are suffering.
“It hurts,” said Lorraine’s Debra Fitch, wiping away her tears. “I try to be patient.”
But her patience doesn’t last very long.
“It seems like it’s really gotten worse…[I’m]mad. There were a lot of emotions,” Fitch said.
She said she paid Social Security the rest of her life.
“I worked all the time until my legs and feet got sick,” Fitch said.
She told us that she could no longer work and that the house she really couldn’t live in was falling apart.
“I had no water for about two years. The roof was bad. The ceiling in the kitchen was dented,” Fitch said.
She applied for Social Security disability benefits to make ends meet.
“Every time they asked me for something from Social Security, I was really prompt … I sent it over and took it there,” she explained.
But when it came time to pay her, there always seemed to be problems with the Social Security Administration (SSA).
“I didn’t go anywhere with Social Security, did I?” Fitch said. “They kept creating roadblocks.”
she is not alone
Months went by and Fitch had no profit. And she’s not alone.
“It’s hard for a lot of people. I know some of them personally, right?” she said, wiping more tears.
“I have bone problems and things like that, my body can’t work anymore,” said Elvin Spriggs, from West Porthmouth, Ohio, near the Kentucky border. At one point, he told us that he lived under the Greenlawn Avenue bridge in Columbus for a while.
“I can’t sleep because I don’t know who’s coming at the next corner. You never know what you’re going to face,” he explained.
Thankfully, a friend adopted Spriggs as he was fighting to get approved Social Security benefits. The whole ordeal lasted nearly four years, he said.
“That’s the barrier between me and where I am,” Spriggs said. “I’m not trying to get rich. I just want what I owe. I spent 35 years for Ohio and this is what I got,” he added. rice field.
Disability advocates battle SSA issues
April Roberts, president of the Princeton Disability Advocacy Group in Olmsted Falls, said: She and her staff go to bat for people like Fitch and Spriggs and help them through the social security process.
“‘Send this and this and this’… 20 times to 20 people!” Roberts said of the process.
She told us that sometimes she can’t get through to the Social Security call center. The claims are just there, and more issues are mentioned when she speaks with the local field office.
“‘In April we were down 50%, covering several other field offices that are understaffed and lagging…and we can’t keep up with the influx of applications.’” rice field. Roberts about what she heard from an SSA employee.
Some news outlets have called the issue a “crisis” that requires “scrutiny.” News 5 asked her SSA for an on-camera interview, but was denied. Some clients have waited at least six months to get a decision on their disability status, after which they have confirmed with the administration that additional steps will take longer to process.
“(It’s) really unfair that you have to go through that whole process,” Roberts said.
SSA is understaffed and complaints are on the rise
SSA also said it has lost 4,000 employees since the pandemic, including a 20% decline at its Columbus office serving Ohio.
Furthermore, our research shows that 30 years ago, about 4.9 million people were receiving disability benefits. Last year it reached 9.2 million and in 2013 he reached nearly 11 million.
Additionally, COVID has had an even greater impact on applicants with disabilities.
“We have ongoing neurological problems and unfortunately ongoing lung problems that are causing people to become disabled,” Roberts said.
SSA said it needed more funding to help improve recruitment and increase recruitment, training and retention.
For some, the excuses are fading.
“I’ve been telling the same story for almost a year.[The SSA employee who helped me]blows me away every time I go to his office,” said an annoyed Spriggs.
Meanwhile, Roberts sees homeless veterans in need of help.
“He’s covered in bite marks,” she said of one veteran, pointing to his neck. “There are people literally choosing between food and medicine.”
For people like Fitch, it’s been a long, hard road.
“I appreciate your patience, but I don’t think[the process]is right,” she told us.
Thankfully, interviews with Fitch and Spriggs, News 5’s contact with SSA, and today, Fitch made some goodies and Spriggs finally got $5,000.
SSA provided the following statement in lieu of an on-camera interview.
“The Social Security Administration (SSA) is taking a comprehensive, multi-pronged approach to reducing the disability backlog during the pandemic. Rapid action to help state Disability Determination Services (DDS) process cases, analysis to identify backlogs and solution drivers, using a dedicated team of SSA employees who have This includes hiring surges to address workforce declines, state disability examiners, and comprehensive assessments of disability processes.”