Earlier this week, we told you about one woman’s fight to survive a rare form of liver cancer, her experience with the Social Security Disability system and the new battle she’s waging to make the Social Security Administration’s rules fairer to people who apply for disability benefits and more effective at helping disabled Americans.
As promised, today we want to talk briefly about two of the Social Security Disability changes Julia Schaefer like to see made and why those changes are important to Oregon residents.
The first involves the SSA’s Supplemental Security Income program, which currently limits eligibility to people with no more than $2,000 in resources. This essentially forces Oregon residents who do not have enough work history to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits to sell off most or all of whatever few assets they have in order to be eligible for what most people would consider a subsistence-level of benefits. Stripping people of their dignity and quality of life this way is a shame, Schaefer says and argues that the SSI resource limit should be raised to $20,000.
Second, Ms. Schaefer would also like to see the SSA change the way it calculates the work credits and benefits of people who are applying for SSDI benefits.
Under the current rules, the SSA only considers income earned during the last 10 years of an applicant’s work history. The problem for many people, she says, is that the most recent 10 years has often involved significant periods of sickness or recovery time during which applicants earned little if any money from work. As a result, many SSDI applicants in Oregon and elsewhere who have their claims approved do not receive a level of disability income commensurate with what they actually paid into the system over the course of their working careers.
Schaefer is working with the medical professionals, nonprofit groups, Social Security Disability advocates and others to bring about these changes and has circulated a petition to that effect among members of Congress. We hope she succeeds in the effort and likewise hope to be able to provide a good news update on this story in the not too distant future.
Source: Dayton Daily News, “Cancer survivor advocate for disability rights of all,” Susan Dalzell, May 2, 2012