PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — A closer look at the Social Security system in Oregon, ranked 36 in the nation, revealed the troubling consequences for those in Portland’s backlog.
For a second day, attempts to reach someone from the Social Security system went unanswered, just as the facts of how long people are waiting to get Social Security disability in Portland were exposed.
The average wait time has gone from 13 months in 2011 to more than 15 months in 2013, according to Melissa Haggerty, an attorney with the law firm of Swanson, Thomas, Coon and Newton.
“Our clients go through everything from losing homes to losing marriages, and we have clients die while they wait,” said Haggerty.
Haggerty said she knows just how bad Portland’s backlog is firsthand.
According to DisabilityBenefitsCenter.org, it takes an average of 679 days to schedule a disability hearing at the Portland Office. That number is 223 more days than at the state’s other office in Eugene and 111 days more than the state’s average, making Portland’s office the third worst in the nation for average claim-processing times.
“All of this is an issue of resources. We’re asking people to do too much with too little,” said Haggerty.
A woman who only identified herself as Tina told KOIN 6 News on Wednesday that she has been dealing with the system for four years.
“I’ve been urged by friends to move because other states don’t take as long,” she said.
Despite having letters from doctors who call her case “urgent for her own well-being and safety” and recommend “an expedited court hearing,” Tina said she has lost nearly everything.
“I can’t sustain work, and I talk to so many other people because I go to meetings and stuff downtown that are homeless just like me because they’re waiting for DSS or they’re waiting for their VA benefits, and they’ve also lost everything,” said Tina.
Attempts for answers from the Social Security department were only answered with a simple email reply form the Regional Office in Seattle that stated, “The average processing time for a hearing in Portland is 15 months.”
KOIN 6 News will continue to follow this story.