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SSDI backlog: another side of the story

Residents of North Carolina are known for working hard and playing hard. Many of us identify with the work we do; it's a part of who we are and how we present ourselves to the world. When an injury or illness prevents a person from working, there is often a difficult period of adjustment.

Adding to the stress of a disability that prevents a person from working is the backlog at the Social Security Administration in processing SSDI appeals. Last week, news outlets reported that the backlog now exceeds a million Americans and that some people with serious medical conditions do not live long enough to see their disability claims approved.

A recent column in the Washington Post highlighted another facet of the SSDI backlog problem: in addition to those who die while waiting to hear whether their appeal is successful are those who live through the process. The Post and others have reported that the average wait is now nearly two years long.

The column was written by a former truck driver who gave up the bouncing, tough life on the road for love. When he married, he studied and became a locksmith.

As a locksmith, he had occasion to lift and handle heavy safes; an occupational hazard that eventually resulted in a back injury; damage to a part of him that had already suffered wear and tear from years of jostling down endless highways.

He tried to ignore the pain in his back, but eventually went to see a doctor. He was told discs in his back were degenerating and that he had neuropathy in both legs and sciatica. After the diagnosis, he cut back his work hours and also applied for SSDI.

His claim was denied (after all, he was still working, the SSA told him). By 2015, conditions had deteriorated to the point that his boss called him and let him go. "You need help and you can't keep up anymore," the boss told him.

We will continue his story in our next post.

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