This Article is copyrighted to and appeared in "City Link" Magazine  April 2-8 2003 and is reproduced here for the convenience of our visitors only.  For more information on Social Security Disability Insurance qualification please contact The National Special Needs Network, Inc.

 

Social insecurity

by Dave Warm

photos by Josh Prezant

They are seated on a bench in front of the Social Security Administration’s Delray Beach office at 11 a.m. Dan Liftman is on the left, wearing a suit. The suit is of no particular importance except that its inside pocket is alive with cell phone music and Liftman doesn’t notice because he is too lost in his own thoughts.

Seated next to him is Karen Haviland, who is nearly 6 feet tall and wearing blue pants that confirm her stated bias for loud colors. The 57-year-old looks nervous but also remarkably well, considering she is undergoing radiation and chemotherapy treatments for cervical cancer. Doctors tell her the tumor ravaging her body is the size of an 8-month-old fetus. “One doctor gave me a 50 percent chance to live,” she says. Somehow, she is smiling.

Perhaps that’s because she has dealt with this before. About 15 years ago, doctors removed cancerous cells from her cervix, so this latest news doesn’t come as a total shock. But in August, she stopped working as an aide to a woman with Alzheimer’s disease in order to deal with her own crisis. “I knew I was getting worse,” Haviland says. “I knew I needed to get some medical help.”

The next time she saw a doctor was Jan. 9, after her government-assisted health insurance came through, and she recalls the doctor telling her in no uncertain terms, “I can’t do a thing for you. You’re inoperable.”

Haviland began therapy nonetheless and watched as her tumor shrank, though it’s still too large to remove. The radiation wears her down, and the rest of her life hasn’t been entirely uplifting, either. One evening, for example, Haviland woke up with a swollen leg, went to the hospital and stayed there the next 10 days while doctors thinned a blood clot. It was during this stay that Haviland called the Social Security Administration to check on the status of her disability claim.

When it became apparent she could no longer work, Haviland applied for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or, as one local lawyer defines it, “that FICA money they take out of your paycheck.” About 6.7 million people across the country receive monthly benefits from this fund, roughly 786,000 of them in Florida.

On Feb. 14, Haviland walked into the Delray Beach office to turn in her application, along with certified documents and important medical records she had spent $40 collecting. She makes it known that $40 is a burden to someone with no income. Haviland asked if she could hand-deliver the papers to her claims representative, but the security guard assured her the documents would get into the proper hands, and Haviland had no choice but to concede. Then, three weeks later, she called to check on her claim, and a worker told her, “We have no record of anything.”

When she got out of the hospital, Haviland went to the Delray office hoping to rectify the problem, but her claims representative wasn’t available. She sat down instead with another worker, who looked at Haviland’s file and said, “You haven’t returned any of the forms.” When Haviland argued, the new worker retrieved the representative who had helped her previously. Haviland says the woman told her, “ ’If you had returned these papers, I would have had them.’ I bit my lip,” Haviland recalls. “Nobody was saying anything to comfort me. They took no responsibility. She was calling me a liar. I felt like a victim.”

It was after this meeting that Haviland called Liftman. More accurately, she called the office of U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, a Democrat whose constituents live in parts of Palm Beach and Broward counties. Liftman answered the phone. As staff assistant, part of his job is to handle complaints such as these, and he does so with great enthusiasm. But Liftman is forever maddened by the Social Security Administration (SSA) — and in this regard, he is not alone.

A program that has been scrutinized more than a few times over the years, SSDI finds itself back in the line of fire. The latest dressing-down was carried out over four sessions in 2002 in front of the House Subcommittee on Social Security, which is chaired by U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw, a Fort Lauderdale Republican. The subcommittee listened to four days of incisive testimony regarding the fractured state of the Social Security Disability Insurance program with the intent of improving an imperfect system.

“It’s an insurance program,” complains disability attorney Robert Kiel of Tamarac. “You pay for it your whole working life. The sad fact is, after paying in and paying in and paying in, it turns out the Social Security Administration is no different than any of the other scam insurers. The minute you ask for what you’ve been paying for, they routinely defraud you.”

Even the SSA has admitted its failures. The agency has attempted again and again to fix a program with a reputation for making inaccurate disability assessments and stringing cases, sometimes involving destitute people, along for years. Statistics from 2002 show that claimants who are denied benefits and appeal the decision will wait more than three years for a final ruling. During those three years, an SSA employee may actually work on the file a total of seven days. Speaking before Congress once again this March, representatives of the agency made a point to include the time it takes to process disability claims among the areas in which it plans to improve but noted just getting through its current backlog will take five years.

None of this surprises Liftman, who was seated at a conference table in his West Palm Beach office, leafing through the stack of mostly unresolved disability files he’s accumulated over the years, the day Haviland called. “October of 2001,” he says, “Let’s see. [He reads from a document:] ‘We have enclosed a copy of the letter sent to her attorney. As stated in the letter, we did not receive the original request for hearing … in order not to penalize the individual … [He raises his voice for emphasis and continues:] Social Security Administration takes pride in processing all requests in a timely fashion and to assist the individual in every matter.’ Ha, ha, ha, I’d forgotten about that. Unbelievable. Unbelievable.”

Liftman continues scanning files, some open since 1997. “With most federal agencies, we get a response,” he says. “We get something out of them. You could bang your head all day long and try to get help from Social Security. Ideally, when they get a letter from a congressman, they’re supposed to sit up and take notice, and we get a response. Social Security, in my opinion, is one of the worst agencies in the federal government.”

As Liftman is finishing this thought, the phone rings, and he answers. It’s Haviland. “What the hell do they do with the paperwork people turn in?” she’s asking, aware she’s been put on the speakerphone.

By the end of the conversation, Liftman is incensed. “I’ll go down to the Delray Beach office with you, and I’m going to insist on seeing the director, because obviously this is a legitimate case and I have a United States congressman standing behind me, and in a case like that, I’m not afraid of anybody. I’ll march in there, demand to see the director and want to know [he pounds his desk] why the hell they screwed up like this.”

The next morning found Liftman and Haviland seated on that bench outside the SSA branch in Delray Beach.

Defending the denied

Kiel calls his practice the Disability Denial Clinic, making it seem larger than it actually is — which may be his intention. This is not to say his business isn’t growing. Kiel says he and his two paralegals took in about 160 new cases last year, a record for his firm. They recently moved to a larger space down the hall from his old office but remain in the same utilitarian building.

“You see, looking through here briefly, this is not a glass-and-marble-walls law firm,” says Kiel, a former labor attorney. “We have all this beat-up used furniture. We operate like a very low-budget thing. There is not the money to represent the disabled.”

One of a handful of lawyers doing this kind of work in Broward and Palm Beach counties, Kiel says he wins nearly 99 percent of the cases he appeals, which, in turn, means, “The government wrongly denied those people 98 or 99 percent of the time. It’s almost as if there’s an unspoken filter the agency uses.”

At 7 p.m. on a Thursday, he is seated behind his desk, switching a television from “shock and awe” to the NCAA tournament to dark silence. “My understanding is that ever since [President Ronald] Reagan decimated the staffing of Social Security, it has never recovered,” he says. “There’s very inadequate staffing. There are good people who work in that agency. … There are people who try hard, who work hard, but they’re overwhelmed.”

Taking a moment to consider how many cases a claims representative at the Delray Beach office might be handling simultaneously, Bob Tomasulo, a Palm Beach County public-affairs specialist for the SSA, says, “It’s difficult to give an exact number, probably several dozen at one time. In most offices, people handle everything, whether it’s retirement benefits or disability.”

But claims representatives bear a limited burden. Essentially what they do is take information and send it to a regional office, where more-qualified personnel are asked to determine whether the claimant demonstrates, as the law states, “the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” The emphasis is on “any substantial gainful activity.”

“No matter what kind of disability you have, you have to show you could not hold a job watching security monitors or sitting behind a gas station window,” says Marsha Katz, a well-known disability advocate based in Montana. “These things don’t exist in Montana. They expect this person to leave their family, their home, everything they own in order to go transplant somewhere hoping somebody will hire them. There’s no consideration for what the economy is like and what jobs are available in the community.”

If the community is Florida, the Division of Disability Determination in the state Department of Health decides whether a claimant meets these tough standards. And it’s fair to say they administer with economy, approving a mere 38 percent of initial disability claims. As low as this number seems, it’s about the average for the nation. Neither mark is considered acceptable.

“Undoubtedly some decisions are unfair,” says Barry Shalinsky, director of the Tampa office for The Advocacy Center for Persons With Disabilities, a Florida program funded in part by the SSA. (The Advocacy Center also has an office in Fort Lauderdale.) “Some determinations are inaccurate. I wouldn’t go as far as to say the whole system is unfair, but there are some people who should be approved at the get-go and aren’t.”

Those who aren’t can ask for “reconsideration,” in which the same folks who made the first decision take a second look. A small percentage receive their benefits during reconsideration. Those who are denied again can take their case before an SSA administrative law judge (ALJ), where an amazing 61 percent of decisions are overturned.

“It’s the first time they’re appearing before somebody who has what lawyers refer to as ‘decisional independence,’ ” explains Bob Rains, a professor at the Dickinson School of Law at Penn State University and a board member of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR). “[Unlike SSA employees], they don’t have to worry they’re going to have negative job consequences.”

Claimants denied by the ALJ can ask for a hearing before an SSA appeals council, which can either overturn the decision or send it back to the ALJ. The final appeal takes place in a federal court. But more than five years will likely pass before it gets to that stage.

“It’s an oppressive and unwieldy system, and that’s the reality,” Katz says. “I’m glad it’s there, but it’s oppressive and unwieldy and overwhelming.”

Kiel adds the words shocking and shameful, then offers one of many examples as proof. This one happens to involve a client in his late 20s whom Kiel identifies only as James. James suffers from a combination of ailments, including the gut-wrenching Crohn’s disease, an anal fistula (a painful sore that refuses to heal) and severe scoliosis. Kiel describes his client as “a tall, thin rail bent over like a pretzel.”

Despite all his problems, James was denied disability benefits, so he hired Kiel to appeal the decision. The ALJ scheduled a hearing for 8 a.m., but Kiel explained that his client — in order to avoid an embarrassing accident — goes through a three-hour bathroom ritual every morning before leaving the house. Despite several requests to start the hearing later in the day, Kiel says, the judge wouldn’t budge.

Paralegal Luiz Puodzius finishes the story: “We told [James] if you have to poo-poo there, be our guest and let the judge deal with the problem,” he says. “The client was in the bathroom until 11 a.m. It was pure proof that he has a problem. The judge gave up, and we won.”

Puodzius continues: “I’ve seen everything. The same things happen all the time. In the beginning, I felt sorry for the client; now, I just get pissed [at] Social Security.” He stops momentarily and changes gears. “Social Security called me today and asked for a copy of my file because they lost [their copy]. We have a waiting period for a hearing of 14 months. My client has been calling every day. Now, because they lost the file, I have to give them a copy and file a new request for a hearing. My client is borrowing money; he’s close to getting evicted.”

Sounding a bit ominous, Rains says: “Everybody who’s been in this business has had people who died before they got to an administrative law judge.”

How to make an American quilt

“Look at the different [presidential] administrations and Congresses, and each one has made their own little changes and additions and subtractions,” Katz says. “It’s like my grandmother’s crazy quilt. It’s a million different pieces, sizes and textures, all sewn together with different threads but in the same blanket binding.”

Like grandma’s crazy quilt, the Social Security Administration is a hodgepodge of intended goodness, conceived in the 1930s to care for senior citizens. Continuous attempts to provide for the disabled failed until 1950. A more familiar model of the program found its way into the books by 1956 with the help of then-Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson. The words substantial gainful activity came as the result of a compromise and were defined as earning at or above the poverty level. As it now stands, people earning more than $800 a month aren’t eligible for SSDI, with the exception of the blind, who still benefit from the National Federation of the Blind’s early lobbying efforts. The blind can earn $1,330 a month and still collect.

The program was further expanded in the ’60s, and by the end of that decade, 1.7 million people were receiving disability benefits. In addition, Johnson, as president, signed the Medicare bill in 1965, providing health insurance to those who collect disability for more than 24 months. The ’70s didn’t slow SSA down, as President Richard Nixon created Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which, among other things, provided disability to those who hadn’t paid into the system and are poor. SSI currently pays a maximum of $552 a month per person and insures its members through Medicaid. Kiel likens it to “welfare for the disabled.”

While the citizenry may have gained, it was clear by the end of the decade that there was going to be a shortfall in retirement benefits as the baby boomers came of age. The Reagan-era solution was to streamline disability. Among other things, the state offices — known collectively as Disability Determination Services (DDS), though Florida’s is the Department of Disability Determination — were told to watch for signs of recovery among the disabled. The Social Security Disability Amendment of 1980 required SSA to review 15 percent of DDS decisions in 1981, 35 percent in 1982 and 65 percent in 1983.

“There was a growing propensity of workers to take that disability,” says Eric Engen, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C. “In the ’80s, [the government] tried to rein some of that in. They tried to enforce current laws and put some extra regulations in so only workers truly disabled got benefits. That has, at times, been mischaracterized as shoving people off the rolls.”

Some would argue that it isn’t a mischaracterization. And this is where Reagan, to many, becomes an SSDI pariah. In 1983, his suggestions to Congress included cutting the benefits of those not considered “permanently disabled” and striking “age,” “education” and “work experience” as factors. His proposed restrictions would also have required a person to have spent more time working before becoming eligible for SSDI. The entire package, he said, would save SSA $50 billion by 1986, but Congress shot him down.

Nonetheless, the Disability Benefits Reform Act of 1984 took its shots at SSDI. The main objective was to speed up the review process, in the belief that as many as 60 percent of those reviewed would be able to resume work. Reagan also placed the burden of proof on the disabled applicant if a medical examination by the applicant’s doctor differed from one conducted by a DDS-hired doctor, many of whom have drawn Kiel’s ire. He recalls receiving one medical report in which a white female client was referred to as a black male. Another, he says, referred to “good hair distribution.”

One more consequential Reagan change requires claimants declared disabled under the set of medical listings of impairments DDS uses to determine the severity of a condition to be re-evaluated under a new set of listings. “The listings have been criticized, of course,” Rains says. “This is all anecdotal, but I’ve had doctors tell me some of the listings are medically out-of-date. The issue is how your patient scores on such and such a test. Doctors have told me, ‘Nobody in my specialty has used that test in 10 years.’ ”

As a result of these changes and other factors, the SSDI population decreased from 1980 to 1988, before taking off again in the ’90s and reaching its current level. The SSA projects that by 2008, the amount of benefits paid out for disability will exceed the amount taken in through payroll taxes, which may be why many of the changes subsequent to the ’80s have also been designed to get people back into the work force and off the government cheese.

Of particular note is the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999, which gives people collecting disability a “ticket” with which they can “obtain vocational rehabilitation, employment or other support services.” Currently 13 states are using the program, including Florida. “It hasn’t been implemented with flying speed,” Rains says.

Anita Godfrey, CEO of the Mental Health Association of Broward County, helps explain why: “There remains a pervasive fear on the part of people receiving disability that they’re risking their benefits. This is based on previous experience and difficulty accessing the benefits the first time. There’s an awful lot of fear.”

Linda Gadav would say that fear is justified. The 60-year-old Delray Beach resident suffers spondylolisthesis, or slippage of the vertebrae, and survives partially on the $550-plus she receives from SSI each month.

Her 34-year-old daughter, Nina Fleisher, suffers from, among other things, lupus, asthma, a herniated disc, depression and multiple sclerosis. She has collected SSDI since the early ’90s but worked answering telephones at a hospital in 1998 for $7.50 an hour. Gadav says she reported her daughter’s work to the SSA, and the agency OK’d it (proposed legislation will require the SSA to provide receipts for changes in work status) and continued increasing her benefits over the years until she received $883 a month. Then, on March 2, Fleisher received a notice of change in benefits from the SSA.

The letter informs Fleisher that she has been paid $44,208.70 too much. “You should refund this overpayment within 30 days. Please make your check or money order payable to …”

“I can’t believe the system,” Gadav says. “I really can’t. There are no words to describe what I feel, that they could literally put someone in the street, that they don’t care. [Nina] is one inch from a breakdown. … We can’t pay the rent. The phone is being shut off [March 27]. I’ve been to every agency to help us. … I’ve been running down [to the office in Delray Beach] with papers and papers and papers. They’re saying, ‘We’re not here to give anyone money. We’re here to determine if someone is disabled, and according to our records, she’s not disabled.’ I’m worn-out. I’m totally worn-out. I’m hysterical half the time.”

Countering reformation

In February, U.S. Rep Shaw introduced the Social Security Protection Act of 2003, describing it before Congress as a means “to provide the Social Security Administration with the additional tools they need to fight activities that drain resources from Social Security and undermine the financial security of beneficiaries.”

While the legislation addresses many issues, it hardly delves into the problems brought forth during the 2002 bitch session before Shaw’s subcommittee on Social Security, in which numerous experts aired their grievances and suggested solutions (hiring a “disability czar,” for example) to a crisis that has inspired promises of sweeping change for more than a decade.

“It’s just my impression, but there’s the absence of progress,” says Hugh Gallagher, the 70-year-old co-founder of the national disability-rights group Autonomy. “It’s perhaps worse.” Gallagher, a quadriplegic as a result of polio, was turned down for disability 15 years ago. “I find that the disabled are disabled by the bureaucracy of our government,” he says.

One glaring example of this is the Hearings Process Improvement initiative (HPI), which SSA implemented in 37 states in 2000. The goal of this program, as stated in 1999 testimony before the subcommittees on Social Security and human resources, was to shrink processing times for hearings from 316 days in 1999 to 193 days in 2002. But in 2002, the processing times for hearings instead rose to 336 days, with another projected increase this year.

“We had one of the shortest wait times for hearings,” Kiel says. “It had been paired down to a five-month wait from reconsideration. After HPI, they burned eight months, and we saw no hearings. The place was paralyzed.”

In SSA Commissioner Jo Anne B. Barnhart’s 2004 appropriation requests before Congress, she admits: “The amount of time the SSA appeals process takes has been a major concern. The Hearings Process Improvements initiative, which was implemented in 2000, has not worked.”

One that has, some would argue, is the elimination of the reconsideration level in the appeals process, with which SSA has experimented in 10 states. As a result, benefits have been rewarded at about the same level (nearly 40 percent of the time) but 135 days sooner. Appealed cases have reached the ALJ an average of 70 days sooner. The SSA was scheduled to eliminate reconsideration nationwide in 2002 but held off to conduct further study of how much it would cost. One group in support of removing this step is NOSSCR.

In its 2002 position paper, NOSSCR details the problems it would like to see the SSA address when it introduces its much-anticipated redesign this spring. “One thing we said upfront is we really think that if SSA were given enough money to do the job adequately, things would work better,” says Ethel Zelenske, NOSSCR’s director of government affairs.

Having said that, she and her organization fear what might be lurking in the future. In particular, the lawyers’ group fears the SSA would like to replace independent ALJs with an in-house body they can better control. Talk of capping the amount of new evidence a claimant can submit as the appeals process lingers also worries NOSSCR.

“We’ve heard people from SSA say it strings the case along by continually being able to put in new evidence,” Zelenske says. “One thing they keep saying is, ‘People change their diagnosis; they don’t bring up a mental impairment until later in the process.’ Another thing we’ve heard people say is, ‘You have to put some closure on the case.’ It’s one approach. It’s not what we see.”

What she has seen is the unveiling of this plan pushed back from January to March to “any time, basically,” Zelenske says. “You feel like you’re adjusting with windmills.” The SSA will provide no comment other than that the new model is due out this spring. In fact, SSA’s public-affairs department appears to function on the same timetable as SSDI. After requesting that all City Link’s questions be e-mailed, the department never replied.

Still, some people endorse the process. Among them is Jeffrey Connors, a longtime Fort Lauderdale disability lawyer. “I know there’s a lot of political correctness right now in bashing the Social Security Administration,” he says. “But in the 22 years I’ve been doing this, this is, by and large, one of the more evenhanded processes I’ve dealt with. No system doesn’t have flaws, … but overall, I don’t think another system could be devised to do it more accurately and humanely.”

But among those who would disagree is Peter Krafinski, a 31-year-old from West Palm Beach who last May entered a world he never even knew existed. Krafinski woke up one morning with a blue-and-purple rash over his eye. An ophthalmologist he visited was left dumbfounded, so Krafinski saw an infectious-disease specialist who in time diagnosed him with dermatomyositis, a rare condition that starts with discolorations over the body then produces severe muscle weakness.

Before being diagnosed, Krafinski had started feeling tired and sore. After a long Fourth of July weekend, he was completely rundown. A few days later, he could barely walk, so he left work early. Soon, he couldn’t stand without help. Krafinski was admitted to the hospital still unaware of what was weakening him, and by the time he found out, he was unable to lift his head. “It’s its own little beast,” he says.

Krafinski stopped working as a well-paid laser and mechanical engineer on July 9, the day he was admitted to the hospital. Steroids have helped him stave off the disease, “but my face swelled up to the point you couldn’t see my ears,” he says. Therapy has helped him learn to swallow, choke and brush his teeth again. But routine movements still make his muscles feel as if he’d worked out hard the day before. In addition, his immune system is so ravaged that when he picked up a cold from his wife, it lingered for more than a month. The site of a muscle biopsy taken in July just recently healed. And he has lost 60 pounds.

The worst part is that Krafinski would love to work but can’t. “I would kill to work,” he says. “I hate sitting at home.” He hates knowing exactly when Will and Grace is on in syndication. He hates that his day out is to an infectious-disease doctor in Miami. And he hates that Social Security denied his second request for disability benefits on March 7.

“It’s a joke,” he says. “I went to college at Texas Tech to be an engineer, but I was hired as a restaurant manager. I was a restaurant general manager for eight years. Then, I was a laser engineer and machinist. I’ve done everything in the gamut, and they’re telling me there’s something I can do out there that’s less physically straining. What? Enlighten me.”

Paperwork and red tape

So here are Haviland and Liftman, sitting outside the SSA office in Delray Beach, a branch that Puodzius refers to as “one of the worst.” (The other Palm Beach County offices are in Belle Glade and West Palm Beach, while Broward County has offices in Pompano Beach, Wilton Manors, Sunrise, Pembroke Pines and Hallandale Beach.)

Liftman has never had any problem with this office. His gripe is with an agency that is historically unresponsive and arcane in so many respects, one of which is its reliance on paper. “Paper files spend a lot of time in transition,” says Marty Ford, legal council for The Arc, a national organization for people with developmental disabilities, in Washington, D.C. “It’s truly physical manila files of paper. I went about 18 years ago and took a tour of the [SSA] offices in Baltimore. It was like football fields long and loaded with stacks and stacks and stacks of manila files. It was an eye opener.”

Among the agency’s slow-moving initiatives is AeDib, an accelerated electronic disability system that cuts down on the amount of paper changing hands. “Compared to 10 or 15 years ago, we’re light-years ahead,” Tomasulo says. “But we still have a ways to go.”

Before walking into the Delray office, Liftman, having just met Haviland the day before, turns to her and says, “Tell me your last name again.” He then introduces himself to the same security guard who took Haviland’s paperwork weeks ago and asks for the manager. The security guard retreats into a door that reads “restricted area” as the two sit and wait. “I’m going to be polite,” Liftman says. “If they give me a hard time, we’ll go from there. I’ve got my list of media contacts. I’ll be out there on Military [Trail] and Atlantic [Avenue] with my sideboard telling everybody Social Security sucks.”

After about 20 minutes, the two are called into a room, and 20 minutes after that, they re-emerge, Haviland grinning. She says the manager admitted the claims representative who had helped her the first time around was out of the office for an extended period and other workers were taking files from a pile on her desk. “She was very cooperative,” Haviland says. “She apologized. She said if they couldn’t locate it, they would pay for the certified copies.” In the parking lot, Haviland adds, “I feel really good about the situation. I don’t feel like a victim.”

Later that afternoon, Liftman admits, “In all the years I’ve been handling Social Security, I’ve never gone down there. I was somewhat out of bounds. I should have sent a congressman’s letter. But very clearly the woman is ill, she has a tumor and needs help right away, and they tell her they lost her file.”

The following Monday, the office called Haviland to tell her they found her file stuck behind another. “I don’t believe it would have happened if [Liftman] hadn’t gone down there,” she says. Now, Haviland must wait to find out whether she will be approved for SSDI, which takes about three months. Haviland, who is staying with friends in Boynton Beach, will have no place to live come May. “The manager said she’ll put a rush on it,” she says. “But there’s no guarantee. Oh, God.”

 

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