Applying for Social Security Disability benefits has become a morass, which can take years to gain approval. State officials disapprove most initial applications. Once a denial has been issued, you have the option of appealing the decision.

According to an article in today’s New York Times, hundreds of thousands of people are waiting for as long as three years for a decision on their appeal. Most appeals do succeed, but the waiting goes on for years.

During this waiting period, applicants do not receive social security disability benefits despite the fact they cannot work. As prostate cancer progresses both the effects of the disease and from the ever-harsher treatments, many men find they can no longer work. For some, this means they have no form of economic support.

Many face economic ruin. Men who are already suffering from prostate cancer and the side effects of the treatments are finding they face foreclosure on their homes, an inability to pay for their medical care and depression that is deepened by the economic pressures.

The Social Security Administration wants to hire an additional 150 Administrative Law Judges to help whittle down this horrendous backlog of over 755,000 cases that currently exist. An additional 100 million dollars over President Bush’s current request will be required to increase the staff to attack the backlog. Even with the additional funding, the backlog will take years to resolve.

The expansion plan has been delayed and fallen victim to the current standoff between Congress and the President over domestic appropriations.

How it treats its sick, vulnerable and its elderly can judge society. What does this say about us?

Joel T. Nowak MA, MSW