According to the US government, even with a single eye, Vernon Lamirand is capable of securing a job. Simply put, what the government wants Lamirand to know is that he doesn’t really need to appeal for disability benefits.
However, Lamirand -- who lives in Norman, Oklahoma -- strongly disagrees with this. In his own words, he says that he often has to contend with immense pain where his left eye had been surgically removed earlier. In fact, many-a- times he’s forced to lay down for at least a few hours with his good eye closed because the pain doesn’t allow him to do anything else at that particular time. He describes his life as being “lived in 2-hour increments” on the worst days.
And Lamirand is not alone.
In what one official from the US Social Security Administration (SSA) acknowledged to be a "crisis" earlier last week, the number of people who have been denied disability benefits by the authorities and are still waiting for the agency to sit and hear their appeals has risen to a whopping 1.1 million across the country.
Actually, the appeal process has made a lot of difference for some people who had been denied disability benefits earlier. In 2015 alone, administrative judges ruled in around half the cases that were brought before them that the applicants indeed qualified for the benefits.
Anybody who’s seeking disability benefits in the US today must wait for an average of 525 days for that decision to come. That is a whopping year and a half waiting for a decision that you’re not even sure will come out positive!
In 2012, the wait was about 360 days; a five-month difference. As if that’s not enough, today’s 525-day wait is nearly twice as long as the SSA’s 270-day goal.
For Vernon Lamirand, that spells disaster. He hopes to secure a check of around $540 per month, something that he’s been waiting for since March 2015. Right now, the long wait is slowly pushing him towards the edge of bankruptcy.
For others like him, the long wait could even mean not being eligible for health insurance, thereby aggravating the situation even more. Some people have even died as they waited.
All of these problems, and yet the US Congress granted the agency almost $1 billion a year lower than what the Obama administration requested between 2011 and 2013.