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Poor and Disabled Americans Left Behind by Social Security

The Hill newspaper reports that, during the pandemic, 1,200 Social Security Administration (SSA) field offices closed “with devastating effects for disabled Americans.”   Many poor and disabled Americans were left behind as a result of these office closures.  Americans with low incomes, significant mental and physical disabilities, housing instability or limited English proficiency have difficulty accessing Social Security programs remotely.  These people need walk-in, on-demand services.

With offices closed, people could not file applications or appeals or correct correct bureaucratic errors.  That has led to historically unprecedented declines in people receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits.

Social Security Disability (SSDI) awards were down by 25% in fiscal year 2021 compared to 2019.  Supplemental Security Income (SSI) awards are down by 30% during the same time. Had awards continued at pre-pandemic levels in these two programs, 500,000 more Americans would have been awarded disability benefits.  In September of 2021, applications for SSDI and SSI were down 34% and 42% respectively, compared to 2019.

SSA is finalizing plans for a partial re-opening of its field offices.   As part of that plan, the article suggests that SSA:

  • Prioritize resources to areas with greatest decline in applications and low-income areas
  • Provide walk-in, same-day service
  • Extend hours into late afternoon/evening on weekdays and into Saturdays
  • Simplify SSI and SSDI applications
  • Streamline eligibility determinations for people who clearly have significant disabilities
  • Streamline waiver remedies for people overpaid due to no fault of their own because they could not report income changes

The article concludes “SSA’s overarching priority must be to ensure that everyone who is eligible receives SSI and SSDI right away —including the 500,000 left behind during the pandemic.”

To read the full article, click here:,1,YhzFRl3g3zkL9UFsKnQx8_RdvQ5TZdYPm1lPLz6hQ9WGgRoq6fK1OXB7q57YhF-1hT4mat78nIN9x07mMUXIhwHuqK7B47dec40z0QHI78ZzXGBmH4EDRnYM&typo=1

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