Application pending: Iowa and Disability Insurance

Published: Feb. 15, 2021 at 7:45 PM CST
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - Iowans who apply for disability benefits might be mentally or physically unable to work, but state protocol requires each and every case to undergo an in-depth review when deciding whether or not the applicant should receive payment.

“They will do their best not to give it to you,” said Susan Butterworth, a Davenport native who has been receiving disability insurance for the better part of 17 years.

Butterworth was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma--a type of bone cancer--at age 13, and had to have her right leg amputated.

As she entered adulthood and remission, Butterworth found that one leg wasn’t enough to qualify, saying, “at the time I didn’t know you weren’t considered disabled unless you have 2 or more limbs amputated.”

The cancellation of her benefits forced Butterworth to file for an appeal which, according to the Disability Benefits Center, is a place that 70 percent of Iowans find themselves in after being rejected for the initial application.

It is the second and longest step to a three stage process that can take over a year on average, according to Quad Cities attorney John Remus, who says that things have actually sped up due to COVID-19.

“[It’s] up to 18 months right now,” said Remus, “before I used to be telling people 18 months to two years.”

According to the Social Security Administration, the average wait time to get answers to an appeal in West Des Moines, which handles cases in our area, is 263 days.

“There is a significant back log in a number of cases,” said Remus.

At the end of the appeals process, the Disability Center says that 80 percent of Iowans are still denied, causing most people to have to file for a hearing in front of a judge.

This is the third part and final of the process, and anyone like Butterworth who has experience will say that you can’t face it alone.

“If you want to get on disability you need to find a lawyer,” said Butterworth.

Out of all the messages the TV6 Investigation Team received, there was only one person who said they were able to get approved for disability insurance without hiring a lawyer.

It’s a move that, due to attorney fees, could possibly take a sum of money out of the benefits one receives.

The good news is that once the hearing takes place, two-thirds of Iowans are approved for benefits, according to the Disability Benefits Center.

This is of course after over a year of waiting and fighting to prove you should get these benefits, after you are considered to be disqualified from working every job imaginable.

“In the paperwork, they only care if you can get a job,” said Butterworth, “not if you can keep it.”

If Butterworth could say one thing to the Office of Disabilities Adjudication and Review, she says she would remind them to look at each case individually, regardless of the volume of cases they receive.

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