ALBANY — Hundreds of injured or sick staff within the New York Metropolis space are spending the vacation season in bureaucratic limbo as they wait to see in the event that they qualify for federal incapacity funds.
They’re amongst greater than 1,000,000 injured or sick staff nationwide whose preliminary claims for Social Safety incapacity advantages had been denied and are actually caught in a monstrous backlog of instances ready for an administrative regulation choose to determine their attraction.
“It’s simply terrible,” mentioned Elsie Nelson, 59, a former college bus attendant from Brooklyn who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and has been ready for a listening to on her attraction since March 2016.
“I’m on the verge of chapter,” Nelson mentioned, including that she’s been knowledgeable by federal officers that her attraction might take a further 9 months to be resolved.
5 years in the past, most instances had been determined inside a yr, however the common processing time is now almost double that — about 606 days.
Within the New York Metropolis space, nevertheless, waits are for much longer, typically stretching effectively past 700 days, in keeping with knowledge from the Social Safety Administration.
The administration estimates that over the previous two years, greater than 18,000 individuals throughout the nation have died whereas ready for his or her appeals to be heard.
“It’s a actually lengthy haul the place the percentages are in opposition to you from the minute you come within the door,” mentioned Mary Dale Walters, a senior vp at Allsup LLC, a agency that represents candidates. She famous that solely about 33% of individuals have their preliminary incapacity requests permitted.
Walters and different advocates blame a number of components for the backlog, together with a scarcity of judges and help workers to determine instances and never sufficient funding from Congress.
“As a substitute of constructing common sense investments, Republicans have lower Social Safety’s funds,” mentioned Rep. Joseph Crowley, a Queens Democrat and member of the Methods and Means Committee. “Due to these cuts, there aren’t sufficient examiners and judges accessible to make selections about profit functions, ensuing on this outrageous backlog. They’re punishing people who find themselves damage by means of no fault of their very own, and it has to cease.”
Rep. Sam Johnson, a Texas Republican who’s chairman of the Methods and Means Committee’s subcommittee on Social Safety, agreed the backlog was unacceptable however positioned blame for the state of affairs on the truth that the company has not had a full-time commissioner since 2013.
“With no commissioner, Social Safety is simply spinning its wheels,” Johnson mentioned in a press release to the Each day Information.
Darren Lutz, a spokesman for the Social Safety Administration, mentioned the company is working to cut back the backlog however conceded “earlier hiring freezes” had slowed its capability to rent new judges and workers.
“For a number of years in a row, the company acquired a file variety of listening to requests, due primarily to the getting old of the newborn boomers as they entered their disability-prone years,” Lutz mentioned.
“We additionally acquired a rise in functions through the financial recession and its aftermath. Throughout this time, our assets to deal with incapacity claims didn’t preserve tempo with the rise in functions, and backlogs grew.”
Lutz insisted, nevertheless, that the company is making progress in decreasing the backlog and nonetheless plans to carry on tons of of latest judges.
“Decreasing the wait instances for a listening to determination is of utmost significance,” Lutz mentioned.
Within the meantime, injured staff are left to attend.
“It’s fairly rattling irritating when you don’t have any cash coming,” mentioned Michael Schwartz, 62, of Forest Hills, Queens, who says he can now not work due to spinal twine accidents he suffered in a 2015 fall. “There’s something fallacious with the system right here.”