And from another editorial in the same issue of the Des Moines Register:According to a recent Des Moines Sunday Register investigation by reporter Clark Kauffman, Iowans wait an average of 541 days - about a month longer than the national average - to bring their cases before a Social Security judge for a hearing.
A massive backlog of unresolved disability claims at the Social Security Administration has contributed to Iowans being subjected to stress and difficulties. One disabled Iowan has been living in a storage garage while he waits for help. ...
A recent Government Accountability Office report determined 1.5 million disability claims nationwide "were awaiting a determination" in 2006. One of the main reasons: reduced staffing.
More staff working on disability claims are needed - including staff at "the hearing level" where the GAO says the greatest backlog of claims exists.
The Social Security office in West Des Moines handles most claims for Iowa. Individual judges are trying to move cases through the system by hearing 70 or 80 cases a month, as opposed to their usual 50 to 60 cases. The risk is applicants not getting fair and complete hearings.
Current law requires most people to wait two years - after they're eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance - to enroll in Medicare, the federal health insurance program.
Congress should eliminate the 24-month waiting period for disabled people needing Medicare coverage. Lawmakers are in the midst of crafting health-care reform legislation, and helping disabled Americans get insurance coverage makes sense.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, studies show as many as one-third of people deemed disabled by Social Security are uninsured, and these individuals have limited access to health services.
Eliminating the waiting period will cost money - an estimated $113 billion from 2010 to 2019, according to the CBO. Disabled people are obviously sick and will use more health services. But if they have access to health care, they may be able to return to work - and get off Social Security.