Long Waits And Long Odds For Those Who Need Social Security Disability

Stephenie Hashmi and her father Shawn, during home. She had to leave a perfectionist nursing pursuit in Kansas City 6 years ago when her systemic lupus flared and left her incompetent to work.

Alex Smith / KCUR

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Alex Smith / KCUR

Stephenie Hashmi and her father Shawn, during home. She had to leave a perfectionist nursing pursuit in Kansas City 6 years ago when her systemic lupus flared and left her incompetent to work.

Alex Smith / KCUR

By a time Stephenie Hashmi was in her mid-20s, she had achieved a lifelong dream — she was a assign helper of one of Kansas City’s largest complete caring units. But even as she cared for patients, she satisfied that something was off with her possess health.

“I remember only feeling sleepy and feeling ill and hurting, and not meaningful because my joints and physique was hurting,” she says.

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Hashmi was diagnosed with systemic lupus, a medical condition in that a body’s defence complement attacks a possess tissues and organs. She’s had medicine and other treatments, though now, during age 41, Hashmi is mostly bedridden. She finally had to leave her pursuit about 6 years ago, though when she practical to a Social Security Administration for incapacity benefits, she was denied.

“I only started bawling,” she recalls. “I felt like, if they looked during my annals or examination these notes, certainly they would know my situation.”

In a U.S., reduction than half of all people who request for incapacity advantages — about 45 percent — are eventually accepted, says Lisa Ekman with a National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives. Getting a conference takes an normal of scarcely 600 days.

“It is not easy to get incapacity benefits, and it’s a unequivocally formidable and formidable process,” she says.

It competence become even harder for people like Hashmi, whose incapacity is formidable to indeed see or measure. This spring, a Social Security Administration introduced changes to quarrel rascal and streamline a focus process, including a new order that removes special care given to a person’s longtime doctor. Ekman says this is a mistake.

“Those changes would now put a justification from a treating medicine on a same weight as justification from a medical consultant employed to do a one-time brief examination, or a medical consultant they had do a examination of a paper record — [who] competence have never examined a individual,” Eckman says.

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She says relying on these examiners who don’t know a studious could lead to some-more denials for infirm people with formidable conditions like lupus, mixed sclerosis or schizophrenia. These illnesses can impact patients in unequivocally opposite ways and competence be tough for an unknown alloy or helper to evaluate. Eckman says some-more denials will lead to some-more appeals, that will boost a backlog.

That reserve started snowballing about 10 years ago, says Jason Fichtner; he’s now a comparison investigate associate in open process during George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, though was behaving emissary commissioner of a Social Security Administration behind then. During a recession, he says, a lot of people who practical for advantages were disabled, though not indispensably incompetent to work.

“They can work, though when a retrogression happens, those are a initial people who tend to remove their jobs and afterwards they request for incapacity insurance,” Fichtner says.

There are now some-more than a million people opposite a nation watchful for hearings, and, adding to a strain, a administration’s core handling bill has shrunk by 10 percent given 2010.

Fichtner says a group is thankful to weed out any and all rascal that it can — including a singular cases in that a patient’s personal medicine competence be perplexing to tip a scale to get a studious benefits. Fichtner says a administration can still legitimately prioritize applicants, if a review shows that a patient’s disability, nonetheless not obvious, merits it.

“For patients that are unequivocally in a apocalyptic condition and unequivocally have vital disabilities, we don’t consider they have to worry about these order changes,” he says.

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Fichtner acknowledges that a reserve needs attention, and says a group has safeguards to guard either a order is operative as it should.

But in Kansas City, Stephenie Hashmi is still struggling with lupus, and still struggling to get incapacity benefits. She’s increasingly pessimistic. After several rejections from a Social Security Administration, Hashmi’s now appealing again. Her conference is scheduled for Nov — of 2018.

This story is partial of NPR’s stating partnership with KCUR and Kaiser Health News.