Jan 12, 2019

Waiting In Syracuse

     From the Syracuse Post-Standard:
Jamie Crouse broke his skull in two places, his collarbone and six ribs, suffered a concussion and lost hearing in one ear in a 2016 motorcycle accident.
The injuries left the chef too dizzy to work anymore in restaurants.
Despite the extensive injuries, it took the federal Social Security Administration more than two years to approve his application for disability.
Crouse is not alone. More than 7,000 people in Syracuse are waiting for hearings to decide if they qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Syracuse’s 19-month wait is among the worst in the nation. After a hearing it can take up to another six months before a decision is issued. That means injured people often struggle to make ends meet or end up homeless as they spend two years awaiting benefits for which they may be entitled. ...
Before Social Security approved his application in November, Crouse was bouncing checks and running up credit card debt.
“I was definitely going under,” he said. “I don’t know if they are understaffed or they just try to bleed you dry." ...
People in Syracuse seeking hearings face some of the longest waits in the nation. The average wait time in November for a hearing was 19 months, the tenth longest in the US.
Federal budget cuts are to blame for the long waits. The Social Security Administration’s budget was cut 9 percent between 2010 and 2018. That reduction left the agency short staffed at the same time disability applications were increasing. To fix the problem, Congress increased the Social Security Administration’s funding by $480 million in 2018 to help ease the backlog and approved a $40 million increase for 2019.
But the extra money has yet to shorten the wait for hearings here. ...

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