A new study released by the government’s watchdog, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that by wait times for appeals for disability claims had disastrous impacts for those in need of disability benefits from the social security administration. Over 100,000 people died while waiting for their appeal, while roughly 50,000 had to file for bankruptcy.
The report came at a time of heightened risk of worsening medical and financial conditions, for Americans living with disabilities due to the coronavirus pandemic. Roughly 10 million people receive disability benefits, according to the SSA Annual Statistical Report. The majority of disability benefits went to disabled workers. According to the analysis of SSA data, wait times spiked from 561 days on average in 2010 to nearly 840 days on average in 2015. The study says this wait time followed an increase of disability claims subsequent to the Great Recession, which could prove worrisome given the COVID-19 pandemic.
The GAO found that while people waited for their disability denial to be appealed, thousands were financially and medically devastated. Nearly 50,000 people filed for bankruptcy between fiscal years 2014 and 2019- roughly 1.3% more than 3.6 million people who filed appeal claims. The GAO study notes that for some applicants, a long wait time may have increased the potential risk of declining health or death prior to receiving a final benefit decision. And if the GAO’s findings are replicated in a post-COVID era, it means that thousands could be at risk for poor financial and medical outcomes in the future.
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