A labyrinth faces Social Security disability applicants

The nation's disability insurance system is in rehab.

But it’s far from well, and problems in Kansas City are particularly acute.

An aging baby boom population and high unemployment rates are combining to flood the Social Security Administration with applications for disability insurance benefits.

The result: a backlogged system that can take years to pay out benefits.

Blame the agency’s staff cuts in previous years.

Blame people who try to fake disabilities.

Blame a labyrinthine claims system that volleys legitimate applicants between federal and state offices.

And, in Social Security offices such as Kansas City’s, blame a sluggish productivity rate for disability hearings.

In Kansas City, applicants for Social Security Disability Income at the end of 2009 were waiting an average of 604 days for a decision from an administrative law judge.

That processing time ranked 135th out of 143 Social Security Office of Disability Adjudication and Review offices around the country, according to an agency report.

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