Disability delays create stress in Colorado

Wait times cause frustration
Posted at 5:43 PM, Sep 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-18 22:21:32-04

DENVER -- Families across Colorado are facing a struggle, dealing with government red tape to enroll a loved one on disability.

According to the Associated Press, more than 1 million Americas are on a waiting list to see if they qualify.  The average wait time is nearly two years.

"I have Lupus, severe depression, PTSD and epilepsy," said Kelly, an applicant from the Western Slope.  She is asking us not to use her first name.  

For years, she's been fighting the Social Security administration, trying to get disability, because she's unable to work even though she wants to.

“They in the denial they had made it sound like I was just being lazy and didn't want to work and that wasn't the case," she said.

Kelly isn't alone. Cases like hers are familiar among disability advocates. "It doesn't surprise me at all.

"This is something we're all well aware of," said Julie Reiskin, the executive director of the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition.

Reiskin would like to see an overhaul that includes revising the criteria to qualify.

"It needs not to be so strict so that people can get it earlier and easier, but then also not have an expectation that it always has to be forever,” Reiskin said.

According to the AP, most applicants who are initially rejected win on appeal. But the process takes time and money, especially if you hire a lawyer.

“As a society, we've said for a longtime now, that people who cannot work, deserve a very basic, again it's very basic, very minimal way to survive," said Reiksin.

Survival that, in Kelly’s case, comes from her friends.

"You really need to fix the system because this is not working.  If it weren't for my friends, I would be out on the street and homeless by now.  And it's not fair," said Kelly.

Fifty-seven percent of people who are chronically homeless in Denver have disabilities, said Reiskin.

She feels that’s directly related to challenges in getting benefit. Earlier this month, the Social Security Administration unveiled some new options to expedite the process.