A former educator said he applied for disability benefits to survive and pay bills, but the Social Security Administration has taken more than a year to make a decision.
|| COVID-19 updates | Maryland’s latest numbers | Get tested | Vaccine Info ||
Sign up for our Newsletters
He and others seeking assistance don’t think the coronavirus pandemic is the only reason for the long delay.
WBAL-TV 11 News talked to two men who said for more than a year they’ve been trying to get answers and that has put their lives in limbo.
Marvin Martin, 55, suffered a heart attack during a physical therapy session. Two strokes and other ailments have further eroded his health.
“I am now going to be placed in hospice in my home starting tomorrow,” Martin said.
Martin is determined to speak out because of his declining health.
“My federal government, my Social Security agency refuses to act on my behalf. I paid into the system and now I feel I have been abandoned by that same system,” Martin said.
Martin said he applied for Social Security disability benefits in November 2019. He received notice in January 2020 his case was under review and it would take six months. But then in March of that year, the coronavirus pandemic hit and slowed the process.
“It may have and I’m not going to deny that, but this is ridiculous,” Martin said.
He said more than a year after applying for assistance, Social Security has made no determination granting or denying disability benefits.
“My case is just stagnating. I am dying now,” he said.
Martin said he is known as the founder of robotics for Baltimore City Public Schools. He got grants and help from NASA in the 1980s to start high school robotics programs. He dedicated his life to education.
“And then now, I need help from my government for what I contributed for the system and no one recognizes or acknowledges my existence, and this is how bad it is,” Martin said.
Emmett Irwin represents Martin and 383 others having difficulty getting disability.
He thinks the Social Security Administration was being gutted and the pandemic made it worse.
“A lot of my clients do feel like giving up. It’s depressing to them and as a year goes by, you don’t have any income and you’re living with family members or homeless, you just want to give up. You don’t want to fight the fight anymore,” Irwin said.
An SSA spokeswoman responded in an email to 11 News writing: “As you know, about a year ago Social Security took the unprecedented step to close our offices to the public in order to keep the public and our employees safe. Our employees continue to work remotely to provide the vital services the public relies on through online services and phone services, and offices are not able to accept in-person visitors at this time, except by appointment for certain situations, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic has disrupted parts of our disability process, particularly at the state Disability Determination Services (DDS) that make disability determinations. The agency provided the DDSs with additional hiring and overtime to help address a significant increase in pending initial disability cases. The DDSs have been able to reduce the number of people waiting for a decision on initial disability claims by about 100,000 cases since the height of the pending cases in August 2020. In order to make initial disability decisions as quickly as possible, and to reduce the burden on the medical community still stressed from the pandemic, we have focused our limited resources on completing initial requests for disability benefits and have reduced the number of continuing disability reviews we are conducting.
“For individuals who were denied benefits and requested an appeal, we quickly shifted to holding hearings by telephone at the start of the pandemic and then added online video hearings. During the pandemic, we have continued to reduce the number of people waiting for a hearing to 376,000 at the end of February 2021, the lowest level in nearly 20 years. We reduced the average wait for a hearing by over 9 months in the last two years.
“We have made notable improvements to our online services, and encourage your viewers to create a my Social Security account, where they can check personal information and conduct business with Social Security.”
But Edward Wallace Sr., 57, who is not one of Irwin’s clients, said he was denied benefits and has been waiting for an appeal Hearing since 2018. The former trash technician for Baltimore County suffers from diabetes and nerve damage in his feet. He lives with his niece who cares for him.
“It’s aggravating, it’s nerve racking but I try to block it out each and every day, but I do the best I can,” Wallace said.
In a final attempt to help others, martin wants President Joe Biden to hear this message.
“You have to act on our behalf too,” Martin said.
Social Security said many of its employees are still working remotely. Also, appeal hearings are being held by phone or online video.
TOP STORIES FROM WBAL:
More financial assistance on the way to help Marylanders recover from pandemic
Emergent BioSolutions’ vaccine output stalled by regulatory roadblock
Col. Briscoe to become Baltimore Police Department’s highest-ranking woman
Maryland’s Brenda Frese is the AP women’s coach of the year
‘It’s called freedom’: Seniors in Pikesville community happy to receive 2nd vaccine shot
Wayfair to open 1.2M-square-foot distribution center in Harford County
READ THE FULL STORY:Some Marylanders are having trouble receiving Social Security benefits
CHECK OUT WBAL:Get all the latest Baltimore news, weather and sports. WBAL-TV brings you the best in Maryland news online, anytime.