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SSA Trying to Reduce Number of People Who Die While Waiting for Benefits

Terminally ill SSD applicants have been caught in the backlog of Social Security Applications and many have have died while waiting for a decision on their appeals. The SSA has a special code for applications in this category: DXDI.

Since 2005, the SSA has coded 15,043 files as DXDI, which means that an appeal was dismissed because the applicant died while waiting for benefits. The stories about applicants who died while waiting are surreal and tragic; one is the story of Dexter E. Penny of District Heights, Maryland.

In September, 2010, Dexter Penny was dying in the hospital; his colon cancer had progressed to stage four. The SSA had contacted him to get more information about his ability to work. He died in December, 2010. On the day of his funeral, he was notified that he had been granted benefits. He received another letter on January 31 revoking those benefits because he had not responded to the previous letter.

Because of stories like this, the SSA has developed a program that lets people suffering from terminal illness go to the front of the line. Moreover, the SSA has increased the number of diseases - now 113 -- that qualify applicants for immediate review. These now include leukemia and pancreatic cancer. Because of changes such as these, the number of people who died while waiting has decreased from its high in 2009.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "Growing Case Backlog Leaves the Terminally Ill Waiting", by Damian Paletta and Dionne Searcey, Dec, 28, 2012.

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