When I signed into WordPress tonight, I saw an interesting article. I lived in the province of Alberta in Canada for nine years, but since I was receiving Social Security Disability Income from the US and wasn’t a permanent resident for most of that time, I never applied for AISH (Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped). I guess we’d call it the equivalent to SSI, since it’s provincial, not federal.
The Edmonton Journal published an article called Income program for Alberta’s vulnerable broken: auditor general. The report calls the program “inefficient” and “inconsistent”and says that it “favors people who are good at completing forms.”
Any of us in the United States who have danced that delicate dance with the Social Security Administration know exactly what these Canadians with disabilities are living with.
A quote from the article struck me as the heart of the matter.
“Workers don’t get enough training to make the decisions they’re tasked with, eligibility guidelines are applied differently from case to case, and those who are denied don’t receive consistent or complete information about why.
The numbers were disconcerting at best. Apparently 8,500 Albertans applied annually for the AISH program. Half of those applications were denied. Half of those denied appealed and forty percent of that group were then approved for benefits.
I don’t have comparable numbers for the SSI/SSDI program, even by state. I might be doing some further research, though, because I feel certain that the number of applications are many times multiplied from that 8, 500 number. I wonder what percentages of the applications are denied the first time and approved on appeal.
The shortcomings of disability assistance in the United States are well-known. I am so brokenhearted to know that my home away from home is similarly challenged in caring for the least of these.
What is it that makes a program like this so difficult to administer? How can we make it better? I wish I knew. I do know, though, that it shouldn’t depend on your ability to fill out forms effectively or to find a lawyer to advocate for you until your system makes its way through a labyrinth of rules that twist and turn in ways that boggle the mind.