Think the VA Has Problems? Let’s Not Forget the Social Security AdministrationReports about the failures of the Veterans Affairs department have been much in the news since 2014, when a man died after waiting more than a year to be treated. The incredible backlog of veterans waiting to receive care, substandard treatment, systematic infrastructure failures and chronic understaffing are common knowledge. Each new report merely confirms something that was made clear years ago; the Department of Veterans Affairs is not providing the care and support that our veterans so desperately need.

Consider this – a Long Island VA hospital shuttered its operating rooms after black particles began blowing from the HVAC vents. The facility director shrugged off the rotting vents, saying that in an older facility, “things rust.” However, this problem isn’t limited to one hospital. The New York Times reported in May, “The department’s inspector general issued an audit report in 2014 warning that there was a $10 billion to $12 billion backlog in maintenance throughout the system, jeopardizing patient safety at a time when aging baby boomers and newly enrolled veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan increasingly sought care at V.A. hospitals.”

It gets worse

New reports are surfacing that the civilian equivalent of the VA, the Social Security Administration, is facing similar problems that will have similar results if changes aren’t made quickly. A story surfaced in August about Wanda Witter, an 80-year-old woman who was homeless and referred from one agency to another for years until a nonprofit group help sort out the facts. Witter was owed money and could prove it, but problems at the agency delayed a payout for years. Just two months ago, the agency issued Wanda Witter a check for $99,999.

The SSA, which handles both Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income, is in serious trouble. The nonprofit think tank the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities details the challenges the agency is facing. Their report found that the agency’s core operating budget has shrunk by 10% since 2010 even as more people than ever reach the age of retirement or need to collect disability. Other findings include:

  • A hiring freeze in 2011 led to a deterioration in phone service. The average hold time is now more than 15 minutes, with 10% of callers receiving busy signals.
  • 64 field offices and 533 mobile offices have closed since 2010, and hours have been cut at the remaining offices.
  • The backlog of pending cases, which includes appeals from those who were denied benefits, has grown by more than 50% since 2010 and exceeded 1 million cases in 2015.

The tip of the iceberg

The stories get even worse. Julie Turner works for a nonprofit group in D.C. which helps “poor, low-income and homeless communities.” She told ABC News, “’There are a lot of other people in Wanda’s position. When I first started this job, I actually had clients that died in shelters without ever receiving their benefits.’ Inaction by the government, she said, is ‘forcing another can of cat food on elderly people.’”

Claiming disability benefits should not be impossible for civilians or veterans. At Rocky McElhaney Law, we fight every day to correct injustice and get our clients the benefits they deserve. If you or your loved one has questions about applying for benefits or has been denied benefits, the experienced Nashville Social Security Disability attorneys at Rocky McElhaney Law Firm can evaluate your case and help get you the compensation you deserve. Call 615.246.5549, visit our offices in Nashville, Gallatin or Knoxville, or contact us today for a free consultation.