Patrick McGarvey waited seven years to get an answer about his Social Security Disability benefits. (Kevin Cook/For The Washington Post)

The Nov. 21 front-page article "597 days. And still waiting " put a face on the many obstacles for Americans who are unable to do substantial work and revealed how the numbers game in Washington comes at the expense of the most vulnerable.

Congress has an opportunity to make things right before leaving town for the holidays. Social Security is a promise to working Americans: Nobody should be left behind because of circumstances outside of his or her control, whether it’s a severe impairment or old age.

Right now, because of a multiyear disability hearing backlog, that promise is falling short for more than 1 million people who are seeking Social Security Disability Insurance. Every single one of those Americans has spent years, usually decades, paying into Social Security and Medicare with each paycheck.

Congress has a chance to turn the tide and restore some functionality to the SSDI hearings process. Instead of harmful cuts, Congress should provide sufficient administrative funding in its upcoming appropriations bill so those who are eligible can receive disability insurance in a timely way. That's why I've asked Senate leaders to make the necessary investments so the Social Security Administration can make case-management systems updates, ensure that the agency has enough evaluators and administrative law judges to process claims, and fulfill its obligations to those caught in the disability backlog.

Ron Wyden, Washington

The writer, a Democrat, is a U.S. senator from Oregon.