Disability in Michigan

Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 34 and unable to take the medicine that could slow the disease, she lost her job as a secretary and applied for Social Security benefits in early 2009. Three months later, her claim was rejected for lack of medical proof.

“I just felt more overwhelmed,” said Young of Redford Township. After Young hired an attorney, her claim was approved in January — just before the savings she and her husband were living off of ran out. “That’s extremely scary, and when you’re stressed out, the MS flares up like a monster,” she said. “It came when I needed it, finally.”

She is among about 40,000 Michiganders waiting for Social Security to decide their pleas for disability benefits, a backlog among the nation’s worst because of the state’s lingering economic problems.

The Social Security Administration told Congress last month that it may use Michigan for an experiment to cut the wait. That worries some lawyers for those waiting on claims. “It’s going to make a bad situation worse,” said Cliff Weisberg, a Southfield attorney whose firm handles about 2,000 cases a year. “What good is it … if by the time you get to a hearing, the client is dead?”

Agency could have local offices reconsider the rejected claims. When Lindsay Cronin turned 18, her dad, Larry Cronin, sought Social Security disability benefits for her so that the mental disabilities she was born with would not leave her destitute when her parents could no longer give her care. Nearly three years later, the Cronins got an answer. After initially rejecting the request — and ruling that Lindsay was capable of doing jobs such as cleaning offices — Social Security granted the Cronins’ appeal in January.

“All of her peers were getting this, and we weren’t. It was like, ‘What the hell is going on?’ ” Larry Cronin said.